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

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

South Slocan’s Ti Loran is among the recipients of this year’s Neil Muth Memorial Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
Neil Muth Memorial Scholarships awarded to 4 students

Students in Creston, South Slocan and Revelstoke are sharing the honour

Dawn Low worked for the City of Revelstoke for 22 years. She became CAO for our community in 2019 and held the position until May, 2021.
Revelstoke’s Dawn Low hired as CAO for Armstrong

Dawn Low was the CAO in Revelstoke until end of May

The Five-Cairn Trail is roughly 25 km long and traverses between two icefields. A friend and I hiked it in 2009. (Liam Harrap)
Liam’s Lowdown: That time I got rescued in Iceland

Sometimes we need to call for help and thank goodness it comes

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

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

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

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

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

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

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

Most Read