No human remains found under Quebec federal building after investigation, prompting calls for further investigation

Experts determined the bones and bone fragments discovered during the archaeological survey at the prospective site are of animal origin.

No human remains found under Quebec federal building after investigation, prompting calls for further investigation
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Mohawk Mothers, an Indigenous-led committee, are calling for further investigation after no remains were found under the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) Montreal's distribution centre.

The SAQ announced on Thursday that no human remains were revealed following weeks of searching and archeological inventory.

The SAQ — the Crown corporation responsible for alcohol sales in the province — halted a construction-related excavation project after the Mohawk Mothers and other Indigenous groups sent letters saying the remains of children could possibly be buried there.

The site was previously used as an informal cemetery at the Saint-Jean-de-Dieu asylum toward the end of the 1800s and first half of the 1900s.

Mohawk Mothers claims several Duplessis Orphans — a group of children named after then-premier Maurice Duplessis who were wrongly certified as mentally ill by the Quebec government — were sent to that grave.

“Since the beginning of this highly sensitive issue for all parties involved, the SAQ has been committed to doing things right and being transparent,” a release from SAQ stated, reports CityNews.

The SAQ reported that experts determined the bones and bone fragments discovered during the archaeological survey at the prospective site are of animal origin. Additionally, they noted the surveyed area was exclusively utilized for agricultural activities until its acquisition by the SAQ.

“Since last January, the Kanien’keha:ka Kahnistensera and the Duplessis Orphans have attended meetings with representatives from the SAQ in order to discuss a respectful and thorough search for human remains before any construction work begins,” said the Mohawk Mothers in a Friday press release.

“On April 10, 2024, all parties agreed that an archeological inventory could proceed using the SAQ’s contractor Arkéos provided that the Canadian Archaeological Association’s Working Group on Unmarked Graves (CAAWGUG) would peer-review the reports and provide additional recommendations before the construction begins.”

They also said that the CAAWGUG recommendations were given after the SAQ's press release was published.

“As the leading national body of experts formed to address the need for research into the mass genocide of Indigenous people at sites like residential schools, the CAAWGUG recommended the use of Historic Human Remains Detection Dogs (HHRDD) in the area, as well as to identify any human bones found by Arkéos on the site, nearly half of which have not yet been determined as human or animal,” Mohawk Mothers said.

The group again called for more investigation to be done before any development continues.

“Continuing the development without further investigation would risk disturbing and potentially destroying the graves of the most vulnerable of our society who died of maltreatment while retraumatizing the survivors of one of the darkest chapters of our history,” said Mohawk Mothers.

“Despite the absence of human bones on this portion of the land, the SAQ recognizes that a painful part of history may have taken place in the past in the place where its activities are now located. We are committed to recognizing this chapter of history on the property at the end of the expansion, working with these two groups to determine the form this memorial space will take,” a release from the SAQ states.

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