REGINA — Mounties say they are investigating a possible death in 1974 at a northern Saskatchewan home where Indigenous children lived away from their families while attending school.
RCMP said Wednesday that they received a complaint in October about the death at the Timber Bay Children’s Home near Lac La Ronge, about 340 kilometres north of Saskatoon. No details about the death were provided.
"This is a historical complaint — dating back decades. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for someone to come forward and speak with police after so much time has passed," said Supt. Vince Foy, who oversees the major crime unit.
Mounties said when COVID-19 restrictions were eased earlier this month officers with the historical case unit were able to get a recorded statement. No charges have been laid and RCMP said the investigation is in its early stages.
"With the complaint being historical in nature, part of the investigative process will be to meet with multiple individuals in several communities," Foy said in a news release.
"Investigators will listen to those who choose to come forward and will follow up on any information received."
The children’s home, located on Montreal Lake near several First Nations, was not considered a residential school because it didn’t provide education and wasn't solely run by the federal government.
It was used exclusively as a home for children who attended school elsewhere, most who were First Nations or Métis.
The home was opened in 1952 by the Northern Canada Evangelical Mission and court documents said it was "dedicated to the salvation and care of neglected children." It ran until 1994.
The Lac La Ronge Indian Band fought in court for years to have it recognized as a residential school. Court documents said the First Nation argued residents of the home were exposed to "sexual and physical abuse, deprivations of culture, family and tradition, and ongoing psychological injury."
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled against the band in 2017 saying the home wasn't eligible for residential school status.
RCMP said its probe into the home is the only investigation involving a residential school in Saskatchewan.
Mounties in Manitoba said earlier this week that officers there have been investigating abuse allegations at a residential school in that province for more than a decade. No charges have been laid.
In the 1990s, B.C. RCMP investigated criminal allegations related to 15 former residential schools in the province. A total of 14 people were charged with various offences.
An estimated 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were forced to attend residential schools.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2021.
— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg