It is not the RCMP's practice to discuss ongoing investigations. In this instance, a media inquiry was made to the RCMP Media Relations Office by the Winnipeg Free Press asking about this investigation. Due to the many people affected by this investigation as well as the larger social implications, it was determined to be in the public interest to provide as much information on the ongoing investigation as we can. This information was provided first to the inquiring reporter and then to our media distribution list, the RCMP Manitoba website, and our Twitter page.
While we appreciate the important job journalists have in covering this story, we would remind everyone to be considerate of the victims as some may have difficulty revisiting these events. They may be further traumatized by the events being made public and by being approached by media.
In February 2010, the Manitoba RCMP's Major Crime Services began probative investigations following allegations of sexual abuse at the Fort Alexander Residential School. A probative investigation means gathering information to determine what took place as well as the scope of the occurrences.
As the allegations were historical in nature, RCMP investigators travelled to Ottawa to complete a detailed review of available archival records regarding the Fort Alexander Residential School to identify anyone involved. Investigators also attended the Manitoba Archives to gather further historical information. They went through thousands of documents, including student lists, employee lists, and quarterly returns. After compiling and collating all this data, investigators developed an investigative plan that began with the canvassing of people whose names had been identified in the documents as well as a door-to-door canvas in the Powerview/Fort Alexander area, where the school had been located.
Officers spoke to or interacted with more than 700 people across North America throughout this investigation in an effort to locate any possible victims or witnesses. Once canvassing was completed and the information processed, a criminal investigation was launched in 2011. Investigators started taking formal statements, and interviewing victims and witnesses. Seventy-five witness and victim statements were obtained by police.
The size and scope of this investigation has meant many years of investigative work. There have been more than 680 investigational tasks identified and completed so far and more than 80 RCMP investigators have been engaged in this investigation. Investigators are engaged with First Nations leadership in Manitoba, including the Grand Chiefs of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Southern Chiefs' Organization. They have also met with the Chief and Council of Sagkeeng First Nation, the community most closely affected by the investigation.
This very large and complex investigation resulted in the RCMP sending an investigative court package to Prosecution Services to review and provide advice regarding charges.
This is the only investigation into residential schools underway by the Manitoba RCMP.
The Manitoba RCMP recognizes the significant public interest this investigation will generate. However, it is imperative at this stage of the justice process that everyone recognizes that no charges have been laid, and that the victims, suspects, and witnesses have privacy rights.
"Violation of the privacy rights of those involved in this investigation will not only cause further trauma to everyone involved, but also potentially compromise this highly sensitive investigation," said Chief Derrick Henderson of Sagkeeng First Nation. "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."
Investigators also ask everyone to allow this investigation to continue, to allow Prosecution Services the necessary time to fairly evaluate the evidence and provide advice. For these reasons, the Manitoba RCMP will not provide any further information related to the specifics of this investigation.