The Mohawk Mothers say McGill University and the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI) are trying to bury them under legal procedures, while, according to them, new evidence that human remains are possibly located at the site of the former the Royal Victoria Hospital were reportedly discovered recently.

Tuesday, in a new stage of this long legal case, the Quebec Court of Appeal heard McGill and the SQI regarding a judgment of the Superior Court of Quebec rendered on November 20, 2023. Judge Gregory Moore had granted to McGill and the SIQ to continue the excavation work, under certain conditions.

McGill and the SIQ have started work for several years aimed at expanding the campus of the Montreal university on this site at the heart of the legal battle. The Mohawk Mothers, or Kanien’kehà: ka Kahnistensera, however, suspect that anonymous Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal burials were illegally buried there in the 1950s and 1960s.

“We’re not just talking about technical details, but we’re talking about living people who have passed away,” said Kwetiio, a member of the Mohawk Mothers.

The SIQ and McGill oppose Judge Moore’s decision to impose the reinstatement of a panel of experts who had been responsible for establishing an archaeological research plan before McGill terminated their contract in July 2023 .

The SIQ also accuses the Mohawk Mothers of wanting to renege on an agreement that all parties had signed on the archaeological research processes of the site.

“In fact, what the [Mohawk Mothers] are seeking to do is to amend the agreement,” SIQ lawyer Vicky Berthiaume told the Court of Appeal. “The highest standards of archaeology were followed.”

The Kanien’kehà: ka Kahnistensera do not agree. They are supported by lawyer Julian Faulkner, representative of the independent special interlocutor for missing children and anonymous graves and burials linked to Indian residential schools, appointed by Ottawa.

“We continue to receive reports. Historical human remains detection dogs are telling us that remains are being identified,” Faulkner said. “And McGill doesn’t want to open up the buildings to find out where the odors [that the dogs detected] are coming from. McGill continues to advance the project, hoping that the Mothers will disappear. »

In the 1950s and 1960s, the CIA sponsored psychiatric experiments on patients at the Allan Memorial Institute, located on the grounds of the Royal Victoria Hospital, using various controversial and harmful techniques that left lasting effects on the victims of these treatments.

The Mohawk Mothers, in collaboration with the Orphelins of Duplessis, are also fighting a similar case, this time against the SAQ. The Société des alcools du Québec is trying to expand its warehouse on the site of the former Saint-Jean-de-Dieu psychiatric hospital, despite the concerns of these two groups, who claim that victims would also have been buried under this site of east of Montreal. Representatives of the Duplessis Orphans were also present today at the Quebec Court of Appeal to support the cause of the Mohawk Mothers.

They are not the only ones grappling with such an issue. In recent years, across the country, discoveries of Indigenous burials have reminded us of the buried and forgotten secrets of the treatment of Indigenous people and vulnerable people in Canada.

Appointed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Kimberly Murray, the independent special contact for missing children and unmarked graves and burials related to Indian residential schools is responsible for working with experts, survivors and Indigenous communities on how best to deal with the sensitive subject of unmarked burials and graves.