Pairs of children’s shoes are placed on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery as a memorial to the 215 children whose remains have been found buried at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, in Vancouver, on Friday, May 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Pairs of children’s shoes are placed on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery as a memorial to the 215 children whose remains have been found buried at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, in Vancouver, on Friday, May 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Vancouver memorial growing to honour 215 children buried at residential school site

‘It’s a harsh reality and it’s our truths. It’s our history and it’s something we’ve always had to fight to prove,’ says chief Rosanne Casimir

Hundreds of pegs, each marking the possible site of a child’s remains, were staked out on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, when Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir arrived at the site last weekend.

In Vancouver, 215 pairs of kids’ shoes now line the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery after being placed there Friday by First Nations advocates from the Downtown Eastside.

It comes as aresponse to the revelation that 215 children’s remains were discovered this week at the site of the former Kamloops residential school.

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc band has begun reaching out to other First Nations across Western Canada that might have had children sent to the school who never returned home.

Casimir said what the nation called “the knowing” about the missing children fuelled the search.

Her mother and grandmother shared stories of abuse at the school and Casimir said the community has pushed for answers on what happened to the students.

“It’s a harsh reality and it’s our truths. It’s our history and it’s something we’ve always had to fight to prove.”

The results are preliminary with a final report expected at the end of June, but more remains could be discovered, she added.

Residential school flashbacks

One residential school survivor has had flashbacks about his time at the institution since the discovery.

Upper Nicola Band Chief Harvey McLeod attended the school from 1966 to 1968. He recalls speaking with his friends about children who were just gone one day.

“We talked among ourselves, the boys and I, my friends and I, we talked about it saying they probably ran away and we were happy that they probably got home.”

McLeod said the discovery of the remains brought back memories of his time at the school.

“I was shattered. It just broke me when I heard about it,” he said in an interview. “It’s a secret, or it’s something we knew that may have happened there, but we had no evidence.”

The school operated between 1890 and 1969. The federal government took over the facility’s operation from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has records of at least 51 children dying at the school between 1914 and 1963.

The commission noted in its 2015 report that officials in 1918 believed children at the school were not being adequately fed, leading to malnutrition.

Families and survivors continue to suffer

The Crown-Indigenous relations’ ministers said in a statement that the discovery is a reminder of the harms families and survivors continue to suffer.

“We are profoundly saddened by this discovery and our thoughts are with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, as well as with all Indigenous communities across Canada,” said Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller.

“It is said that once you know the truth, you cannot un-know it. Yesterday’s discovery reflects a dark and painful chapter in our country’s history.”

They are working with the community and partners such as the BC First Nations Health Authority, to provide resources and the support needed as determined by the community, the ministers said.

Manny Jules, who was chief of the Tk’emlúps for 16 years, said he wants an apology from the Catholic Church for its role in operating residential schools across the country.

Bishop Joseph Nguyen expressed his “deepest sympathy” on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kamloops to Casimir and the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.

Richard Jock, the authority’s CEO, said the legacy of colonialism leads to modern-day trauma and health issues in Indigenous communities.

“This particular event may be seen as historical but it’s also a continuous trend, I would say, of this power imbalance, if you would, that creates these issues for First Nations people.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said what has been found “is the reality of the genocide that was, and is, inflicted upon us as Indigenous Peoples by the colonial state.”

“There are no words to express the deep mourning that we feel as First Nations people, and as survivors, when we hear an announcement like this,” he said in a statement. “These were children — all belonging to a family and community, and a nation — who were forcibly stolen from their homes under the authority of the Canadian government, and never returned.”

Chief Don Tom, the union’s vice-president, noted the first-ever meeting of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs was held on the former grounds of the Kamloops residential school in 1969.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

residential schools

Just Posted

Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley addresses Parliament on June 7, in call for the federal government to stop fighting Indigenous children in court and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action. (Image: supplied from Facebook)
NDP motion calling for immediate reconciliation action passes

Skeena-Bulkley MP Taylor Bachrach addresses federal Parliament

Coho is one of many fish species that will benefit from a project to assess fish passage in the Falls River Watershed and offer options for improved connectivity and habitat restoration. The project will be delivered with funding from the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program announced on June 8. (Photo: supplied by FWCP, istock, M.Haring)
More than $2.1 million for Northcoast fish and wildlife projects

Falls River Watershed SE of Prince Rupert to have fish passage and habitat study

UFAWU-Unifor stated on June 8 that there is no evidence of commercial fishing fleet overfishing for salmon. A salmon being weighed in Prince Rupert during the correct season in 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
UFAWU-Unifor responds to DFO’s Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative

Union states there is no evidence of overfishing in the commercial fleet

Ocean Wise’s cetacean photogrammetry research program uses aerial images collected by boat-launched drones to measure the body condition of whales and assess their health and nutritional status. (Ocean Wise Marine Mammal License MML-18 photo)
LNG Canada commits $750K to Ocean Wise

New three-year initiative expands whale research, conservation and education programs in the north west

Loki, a young bald eagle is seen in recovery after being found hanging from power lines on just her second day of independence, last July. Equipped with a GPS, Loki has made a home in Prince Rupert with Hancock Wildlife Foundation asking for help in photographing her. (Photo: Hancock Wildlife Foundation)
Looking for Loki, the new Prince Rupert local

Hancock Wildlife Foundation is asking the public for help

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read