Residential school memorial at Calgary city hall should stay until permanent one found: reconciliation group

The future of the memorial to the victims of the residential school system at Calgary’s city hall is uncertain but there are calls for a permanent tribute to be established.

The tiny shoes and stuffed animals are a constant reminder of the lives lost at Canada’s residential schools.

They began appearing on the steps in front of Calgary’s municipal plaza soon after the findings of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at the site of a former Kamloops residential school in May.

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“I’m really disappointed that the city hasn’t worked a little closer with the Indigenous community,” said Michelle Robinson, the co-founder of the Reconciliation Action Group.

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“Unfortunately because the city is so far behind on working with us on outreach in creating a permanent structure, this was going to happen. We knew we needed a memorial. It happened organically,” Robinson said.

Click to play video: 'Calgary police investigating after residential school memorial vandalized at city hall' Calgary police investigating after residential school memorial vandalized at city hall

Calgary police investigating after residential school memorial vandalized at city hall – Aug 4, 2021

She said the city needs to consult with the Indigenous community on a plan for a permanent memorial.

“Having a visual representation is exactly what we need,” Robinson said.

“It’s deplorable to me that we have so many memorials for the world wars but we cannot have one single one to acknowledge the massive genocide that has happened here to Indigenous peoples.”

Ward 8 Councillor Evan Woolley said the memorial has served an important purpose. He calls it part of an ongoing healing process.

“We have immense opportunity to create something more permanent,” Woolley said.

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“This happened organically and is something that has grown. It has continued to grow over the last months and I think it is something that, until we find out what a permanent space might look like, should stay.”

Robinson agreed the current memorial should stay until there is a permanent tribute.  She said it has provided a place to mourn and gather.

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“I think for Canadians who are just so uncomfortable with any Indigenous truth, they want it gone as soon as humanly possible,” she said. “Unfortunately we can’t do this anymore.  That is what’s lead to the problems that we have.

“We need to have a place that we can acknowledge our truth.”

A spokesperson for the city of Calgary said the city is still in discussions with members of the Indigenous community and will provide an update on plans for the memorial and timing for a ceremony as soon as a decision has been reached.

–with files from Adam Toy, Global News

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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