'There has to be more': Vancouver Island residential school survivor mourns bodies found at Kamloops school
VICTORIA -- A dark history of residential schools dots the map of Vancouver Island. Federal records show five operated here.
Eddy Charlie is a residential school survivor who went to the notorious Kuper Island Residential School, near Nanaimo.
It was a place he learned to call "Canada's Alcatraz."
"Many children tried to swim away from the school and died while trying to escape," he said on Friday.
Charlie spoke with CTV News Vancouver Island one day after news broke that approximately 215 children were buried at a Kamloops residential school site.
The news transported Charlie back to his years of physical and sexual abuse, and stirs free his memories of more forgotten children.
"There has to be more children buried on school property," he said. "They are absolutely going to find more bodies, they just need to know where to look."
Charlie calls the discovery a wake-up call, and demands that searches be made at every residential school site in the province.
B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Murray Rankin, agrees that further exploration is needed.
"Hundreds and hundreds of children tried to run away or were lost," said Rankin. "We now know where some of them ended up. Have there been other such sites in other parts of British Columbia? I think we owe it to the communities to find that out."
Charlie, an Orange Shirt Day residential school advocate, hoisted a memorial flag at a Victoria school Friday.
It's a flag he'll leave at half mast for the day.
"I heard stories at truth and reconciliation (events) that a lot of parents are still waiting for their children to come home," he said.
Support services are available for anyone impacted by the news.
A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.
The B.C. KUU-US Crisis Line Society also has 24-hour services available toll free at 1-800-588-8717 or online here. A youth line is also available at 250-723-2040, and an adult line is available at 250-723-4050.