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Possible graves at Regina General Hospital lot?

Parking is reduced while a site assessment determines what is in the ground at Regina General Hospital’s parking lot, in advance of a new parkade project.

REGINA — A new parkade is in the works for Regina General Hospital, but first they need to rule out whether the possible location might have been a burial site.

Saskatchewan Health Authority confirms a site assessment will be done of possible historical anomalies found at the location. Surveying and geological assessments will be carried out, which will reduce visitor parking in the northwest portion of the parking lot at the hospital, which is where the work will be carried out.

The intention is for a full archeological assessment, including on-site excavation to positively identify the nature of the anomalies. Miguel Morrissette, assistant deputy minister with SaskBuilds and Procurement, told reporters there are a number of different possibilities, including “old foundations, old excavations.”

It “could be burial sites. That’s why we’re proceeding with the excavation work as next steps in seeing what the actual anomalies are.”

It’s also possible old tunnels could be located underneath. The work to come will determine what exactly is in the ground.

What is known is that the first cottage hospital opened on the grounds in 1895, with subsequent additions and changes in owners and operations. It was also a children’s site, said Morrissette.

“And so there’s possibilities; there’s also gaps in our history and we don’t know for sure what the data is showing yet, so we’re going to have to get in the ground, take a look.”

A technical site assessment with ground penetrating radar had identified the anomalies. The work that will be proceeding is part of the due diligence on the project.

Butch Amundson, technical leader for cultural resources for Stantec Canada, said  the anomalies warrant investigation. 

He said they had done ground-penetrating radar and electromagnetic surveys. “They both indicate there’s something of human manufacture in the ground, and they could be historical structures associated, or infrastructure associated with the hospital.”

He said there have been outbuildings on the hospital, temporary buildings and more permanent buildings. “We have buildings showing up in the 1913 fire insurance plans,” said Amundson.

The next evidence was aerial photography of the site from 1947. “So we’ve got that gap there of 34 years where we aren’t sure what the infrastructure of the site looks like.”

Agencies and ministries have been notified of the exploratory work underway. The excavation work should happen over the next month.

Morrisette said they are still committed to building the parkade, and that there are a lot of different site options and the configuration could be in different areas. If remains are found, the RCMP and coroner would be notified and also any community stakeholders such as First Nations. An update of the findings is planned for a later date.The SHA said there is not expected to be any impact to services or EMS access to the hospital during this time. The SHA will work with the city of Regina to identify options regarding parking to mitigate the impact for visitors and staff.

This article has been updated to clarify remarks by Butch Amundson.