Edmonton vigil honours children found buried at Kamloops residential school

EDMONTON — At least 215 pairs of shoes were laid at the foot of a Catholic monument in Edmonton Sunday — one for each of the children recently discovered in a mass grave at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Hundreds gathered, and listened quietly, as Indigenous people took turns speaking and praying at an elevated microphone outside of the Alberta Legislature.

“We’re here to come together to honour, to pay our respects, and to mourn and grieve together,” organizer Anita Cardinal-Stewart said.

“We are facing a time here right now where so many people are waking up to the fact that these things happened, that Canada is built from genocide.”

The grave discovery sent shockwaves across the country, with vigils and marches taking place, and flags being lowered in several Canadian communities.

The prime minister declared that flags on all federal buildings would be lowered and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson also announced tributes.

At the legislature people lit candles, placed stuffed animals and flowers, and prayed.

Cardinal-Stewart is the president of the Indigenous Students Law Association at the University of Alberta.

She said many of her Elders were in residential schools in western Canada, but thankfully they survived.

What happens now with other former residential school sites and possible burials, is not for her to say. Cardinal-Stewart believes the families of victims and survivors need to make that call, and other Canadians need to show respect, and simply listen.

“Please, our allies, stand with us. Amplify our voices, the voices that need to be heard. So many times our stories are told for us, and we’re tired of that.”

The vast majority of participants at the vigil wore masks, and about 300 people were there.

There was no sign of officers enforcing pandemic gathering rules, but Alberta Health Services has previously encouraged rally and vigil attendees to physically distance and wear masks.

The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is 1-866-925-4419.

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