Canada’s Trudeau questions China seeking probe of indigenous children’s remains

People visit a makeshift memorial on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc band council encouraged mourners to take part in a national day of prayer to honour the remains of 215 children that were found at the site in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada June 6, 2021. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier//File Photo

GENEVA, June 22 (Reuters) - China and its allies called on Tuesday for an investigation into the discovery of the remains of indigenous children in Canada at the site of a former boarding school, prompting an angry response from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia that closed in 1978, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation said on May 28.

"We call for a thorough and impartial investigation into all cases where crimes were committed against the indigenous people, especially children, so as to bring those responsible to justice, and offer full remedy to victims," Jiang Duan, a senior official at China's mission to the United Nations in Geneva, told the Human Rights Council.

Canada, locked in a trade and diplomatic dispute with Beijing, later delivered a joint statement on behalf of more than 40 countries calling for access to China’s Xinjiang region to look into allegations of the government’s mass detention of Uyghur Muslims.

Trudeau, condemning what he called "the systemic abuse and human rights violations" in Xinjiang, said a Canadian truth and reconciliation commission had worked from 2008 to 2015 to address the mistreatment of the indigenous population.

"Where is China's truth and reconciliation commission? Where is their truth? Where is the openness that Canada has always shown and the responsibility that Canada has taken for the terrible mistakes of the past?" Trudeau asked.

"China is not recognising even that there is a problem ... that is why Canadians and people from around the world are speaking up for people like the Uyghurs," Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

Jiang read the statement out on behalf of countries such as Russia, Belarus, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela, all of which have been criticized by Western nations for human rights violations.

Canada’s residential school system, which forcibly separated indigenous children from their families, constituted “cultural genocide,” the truth and reconciliation commission said in 2015.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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Thomson Reuters

Covers Canadian political, economic and general news as well as breaking news across North America, previously based in London and Moscow and a winner of Reuters’ Treasury scoop of the year.