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Please note: We recognize that the language used to communicate about this topic has evolved since our original release. We will be using reflections moving forward, but will keep the original release true to when it was released in 2022.
The investigation into possible criminality in relation to potential burials at Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Roman Catholic Church has moved into a new phase. After a year of interviewing community members, conducting surveys, and following up on leads, the RCMP has not uncovered evidence at this time related to criminal activity specific to the reflections detected at the site.
In consultation with the community and partners, a way forward has been found. A community-led forensic anthropological dig in the basement of the church is taking place. If anything is located that is possibly related to criminal activity, the RCMP has plans in place and investigators assigned to continue the investigation.
On August 15, 2022, a meeting was held at Manitoba RCMP Headquarters in Winnipeg between senior RCMP officers and representatives from Minegoziibe Anishinabe; this included the Chief, Council members and Elders.
The meeting centred on ground anomalies detected by a private contractor hired by the community and the potential role of the RCMP in investigating these anomalies.
During the meeting, officers were informed that the community was specifically concerned about possible criminality related to ground anomalies detected beneath a church in Minegoziibe Anishinabe. In addition, it was shared that Elders and community members have additional knowledge and information in relation to these anomalies.
The meeting concluded with a formal request from community leadership for the RCMP to investigate the ground anomalies detected beneath the church.
The RCMP has a responsibility to investigate complaints brought forward to its attention and, following extensive discussions with Minegoziibe Anishinabe leadership, has launched an investigation.
The RCMP recognizes that this investigation must be done in close collaboration with the community. On October 13, 2022, officers with the RCMP’s Major Crime Services and the local detachment were invited into Minegoziibe Anishinabe to attend a communal feast and take part in a community forum to detail the investigation.
During the forum, officers explained how the investigation will unfold and sought input from attendees to ensure that it’s conducted in a culturally sensitive manner and in line with the needs of the community.
Further, officers outlined how community delegates will work closely with officers during the entirety of the investigation to promote and foster greater trust and transparency. A community liaison has also been identified to ensure ongoing and open communication between Minegoziibe Anishinabe and the RCMP.
As part of the first phase of the investigation, officers will begin collecting information about every aspect relating to the anomalies, identifying witnesses, and beginning interviews. A trauma-informed approach will be used throughout the investigation.
Further consideration will be given to site examination based on the analysis of the evidence collected during this first phase.
“The Minegoziibe Anishinabe have ventured down a pathway towards identifying and sharing our difficult truth. We do this for the future well being of our children. In this effort we are looking at establishing relationships of respect and collaboration but ever mindful of the difficulties we have survived through.”
Chief Derek Nepinak
“It is our responsibility to ensure that a thorough, methodical and culturally sensitive investigation takes place. It is the RCMP’s role to collect evidence in order to provide the answers sought by the community.”
Superintendent Rob Lasson
Officer in Charge of Major Crime Services
Tara Seel, Media Relations Officer
RCMP Media Relations