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KUPER ISLAND: Transcripts | Listen

An 8-part series that tells the stories of four students: three who survived and one who didn’t. They attended one of Canada’s most notorious residential schools – where unsolved deaths, abuse, and lies haunt the community and the survivors to this day. Hosted by Duncan McCue.

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Kuper Island Episode Transcripts written in white on orange background with indigenous art in black on orange background
Kuper Island Transcripts Image (Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun)

By the time it closed in 1975, the Kuper Island Residential School was known as Canada's Alcatraz — a place where generations of children were torn from their families and subjected to systemic abuse. And long after the school was torn down, the community and the survivors are still haunted by what happened there.

Kuper Island tells the history and ugly legacy of Indian Residential Schools through the stories of four children – three who survived and one who didn't. In pursuit of the truth about this painful history, Duncan McCue exposes buried police investigations and long-lost coroner's reports, confronts abusers who got away with genocidal crimes, and witnesses a community trying to rebuild – literally on top of the old school's ruins and unmarked graves of Indigenous children.

For a full list of production credits, scroll to the bottom of this page.


Series Trailer


Episodes

Episode 1: A School They Called Alcatraz

Duncan McCue travels to Penelakut, an island off the coast of B.C., and the site of the Kuper Island Residential School. The community has torn down the reviled building, but the dark memories of what happened at the nearly-century old institution linger. Survivors James and Tony Charlie give a tour of their old school grounds, and we look into the mystery of what happened to one boy, Richard Thomas, who did not make it out alive.

Access the transcript for Episode 1 here.

Episode 2: Nights on the Boys' Side

What was it like to be a student at one of the most notorious residential schools in Canada? Survivors James and Tony Charlie share their own account of recurring sexual abuse at the hands of their teachers, starting with a fateful trip to Montreal's Expo '67. Their stories speak to how abuse rotted all facets of school life — and how at Kuper Island, no child was spared.

Access the transcript for Episode 2 here.

Episode 3: Sink or Swim

Survivor Belvie Brebber tells us about her five years at Kuper Island Residential School, a time filled with fear, cruelty and sexual violence. Belvie makes it out alive, but her younger brother Richard Thomas does not. She describes a terrible phone call that shattered her family forever, and why she never believed the school's story that her beloved brother died by suicide.

Access the transcript for Episode 3 here.

Episode 4: What happened to Richard?

Richard Thomas was smart, kind and well-loved. He was having no problems in school and he wanted to go further in education. Then inexplicably, days before his graduation, he's found dead in the Kuper Island school gym. His death was ruled a suicide — with no further questions as to why. We piece together a portrait of the teenager through his own writings, and find an old coroner's report that raises more questions than answers about how Thomas died.

Access the transcript for Episode 4 here.

Episode 5: Feeding the Dead

An archaeologist uses the stories of survivors and a ground-penetrating radar machine to pinpoint where children who died at the Kuper Island school were buried, sometimes in places where no one ever wanted them to be found. And we explore how the Hul'qumi'num people honour their ancestral dead, and why this work is important when it comes to unsettled spirits and unmarked graves.

Access the transcript for Episode 5 here.

Episode 6: It Didn't Feel Like Justice

We explore what really happened during a 1990s RCMP task force investigation triggered by the high number of allegations of sexual abuses at the Kuper Island Residential School, and track down a former staff member who witnessed the horrors firsthand. We learn one of the abusers at the school, Brother Glenn Doughty, is still alive. We try to reach him and learn troubling information about his whereabouts.

Access the transcript for Episode 6 here.

Episode 7: Hurt People Hurt People

The children who attended Kuper Island Residential School faced a terrible aftermath trying to process what happened. The abuse they suffered there often coloured their relationships with family and community — with devastating results.

Meanwhile, the team learns one of the perpetrators from the school spent his later years being taken care of in relative comfort — all paid for by the Oblates. They demand to know why.

Access the transcript for Episode 7 here.

Episode 8: Every Child Matters

The team tracks down the last person to ever see Richard Thomas alive at Kuper Island Residential School. Donnie Sampson was just 10 years old at the time and has disturbing memories of the day — that include a familiar and problematic name from the past.

Host Duncan McCue takes the results of the investigation back to Richard's sister Belvie who must decide what to do next. In Penelakut, the community rallies around their children — the new generation, the adult survivors still healing, and all the ones who never came home.

Access the transcript for Episode 8 here.


Production Credits

Host: Duncan McCue
Producers: Duncan McCue, Jodie Martinsen and Martha Troian
Sound Design: Evan Kelly
Original Music: Ziibiwan
Artwork: Eliot White Hill
Coordinating Producer: Roshini Nair
Video Producer: Evan Aagaard
Cross Promo Producer: Amanda Cox
Senior Producer: Geoff Turner
Story Editor: Chris Oke

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