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Ottawa launches residential school map to help in search for missing children

The Canadian government has launched a new interactive online map pinpointing the location of residential schools, and experts say it will help in the search for unmarked or forgotten graves of children forced to go to the institutions.

Many residential school buildings have been torn down, paved or built over since the first one opened in Canada in the 1830s and the last one closed in the mid-1990s.

The Indian Residential Schools Interactive Map will help searchers get accurate locations of former buildings.

«It's a very valuable resource,» said Andrew Martindale, an anthropology professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

«If we find evidence of a cemetery or a burial, and we know where it is relative to buildings in the 1930s, we can use this kind of information to say: 'Where is this today?'»

Martindale said it's challenging to get information from jurisdictions about the history of former residential school land, including how it changed and the names of the the landowners.

«If we're off by even a metre, it can have consequences in the work that we do,» said Martindale, a member of the National Advisory Committee on Residential Schools Missing Children and Unmarked Graves.

The free mapping tool includes contemporary and historical aerial photos, giving users an opportunity to visualize where the institutions operated and what they looked like.

A window into the past

More than 100 Indigenous communities are involved in residential schools grave searches, and they had to pay to access aerial maps from libraries and obtain records through access-to-information requests with government institutions, said Kimberly Murray, independent special interlocutor for missing children in unmarked burials.

While the tool may

Read more on cbc.ca