Police were called to Taché Avenue Wednesday after a construction crew uncovered skeletal remains near a historic St. Boniface graveyard.
Workers at the scene, who were digging a trench to replace a city water main, uncovered a human skull was discovered in a hole about three metres deep, under the sidewalk on Rue de la Cathédrale at the corner of Taché.
City police were more circumspect.
"We’re investigating a suspicious circumstance," Winnipeg police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said.
Authorities were called to the scene shortly after 10 a.m. Roadwork continued near the scene, but it had stopped at the trench where the remains were found and police could not say when work might resume.
The skull was found across the street from the historic cemetery where Manitoba Métis leader Louis Riel’s grave draws tourists every year. The cemetery is the oldest Roman Catholic graveyard in Western Canada, with some burial plots dating back to the early 1800s.
The police spokesman said officers are working with the medical examiner’s office and the province’s historic resources branch to identify and assess the remains.
Michalyshen would not confirm workers had uncovered an apparent grave or removed a skull from the excavation site, although several workers were reported to have seen the skull.
A provincial spokesman said only a portion of the burial site was uncovered and it appeared to be an individual buried in or near the cemetery within the last 100 years.
The branch’s archeologists are ensuring the remains are intact and will be reburied in the original location, the provincial spokesman said.
The water main work will be modified to completely avoid the grave, he said.
A cemetery groundskeeper, who wished not to be named, said the cemetery used to be bigger and many graves were moved years ago to make room for a larger intersection.
He also said the location of the remains appeared to indicate a grave oriented north to south, like other plots in the cemetery.
Police cadets were left to guard the scene after police and an archeologist finished a preliminary investigation.
It’s not known if there are other remains in the area and police could not say Wednesday where that part of the investigation might take them.