by Stephen Dafoe
Ground-penetrating radar has determined there are no unmarked graves on an area of Mission Hill in St. Albert where the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Division intends to build a parking lot.
The Division said it wanted to ensure the lands were free and clear of any human remains and engaged Métis Local 1904 St. Albert – Sturgeon to conduct a Traditional Land Use Study to identify any potential graves in advance of some planned construction.
Director of the Institute of Prairie Archaeology Dr. Kisha Supernant, along with a team of PhD and undergraduate students, used ground-penetrating radar to scan the lands behind the Division Services Centre in an area on the north-west corner of Mission Hill on July 20.
Although not a residential school site, Father Mérer School, known as the brick school, operated as a day school and occupied the lands adjacent to where the parking lot expansion area will be built. The Father Mérer School, a two-storey brick schoolhouse built in 1909 was demolished in 1960. It is located near what was the Youville residential school.
“Our Division remains grateful for the partnerships formed throughout this process and the deeper understanding of the significance of the work being conducted by Indigenous groups across the country,” said GSACRD Superintendent Dr. Clint Moroziuk in a media release Thursday.
Bruce Gladue, president of Métis Local 1904 said Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools’ openness to doing the right thing considering the circumstances is truly worthy of recognition.
“We look forward to building on the relationship based on the principles of trust, respect and understanding as a way forward in reconciliation,” Gladue said.
The ground-penetrating radar report offered the following conclusion:
“It was felt that ground truthing with penetrating radar should be done to confirm the findings of the Traditional Knowledge holders, that no unmarked graves exist and the paving for the parking lot expansion can proceed.
“We understand the radar work has been completed. That report along with this report combined provide the collective comfort required in that Metis Local 1904 St. Albert – Sturgeon County can say with confidence that we find no reason to suspect the area of the proposed parking lot poses any risk of unmarked graves.”
The complete study is available on the school division website and provides additional information supporting the conclusions and recommendations.
In June, the GSACRD Board of Trustees struck a committee on the renaming of Vital Grandin School as well as a review of all other school names.