Manitoba RCMP have spent years investigating abuse allegations at residential school

Years investigating abuse

Manitoba RCMP say they have been conducting a large-scale, years-long investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at a residential school.

RCMP said Tuesday that officers with the major crime unit began looking into the Fort Alexander Residential School, northeast of Winnipeg, in 2010 and a criminal investigation was launched the following year.

The school was opened in 1905 in the community of Fort Alexander, which later became the Sagkeeng First Nation. It ran for 66 years until 1970.

The Catholic Church operated the school, originally through the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

"We ask that the trauma our community has experienced and continues to live every day is respected and that those affected are afforded their privacy at this time," said Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson.

RCMP said the investigation has involved reviewing archived records of the school, including student and employee lists. Officers also interviewed more than 700 people across North America.

Mounties said they’ve now collected 75 witness and victim statements and are waiting on advice from the province's Crown prosecutors regarding charges.

So far, no charges have been laid.

RCMP said it's the only investigation into residential schools currently underway in Manitoba.

The Fort Alexander school had a reputation for abuse and children who ran away. Survivors spoke to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about abuse, starvation and harsh discipline.

The commission's final report said Phil Fontaine, former Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chief's, put experiences at residential schools on the national agenda in 1990 when he disclosed his own sexual abuse at the Fort Alexander school.

In the commission's final report, survivor Victoria McIntosh said life at the school taught her not to trust anyone.

"You learn not to cry anymore. You just get harder. And yeah, you learn to shut down."

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