Acts of remembrance held following discovery of children's remains in B.C.

People across the National Capital Region gathered this weekend to honour residential school survivors and commemorate the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered buried outside a Kamloops school in late May.

Attendees hope to honour lives lost, survivors of Canada’s residential schools

Chelsea residents lay shoes for 215 children found at Kamloops residential school

4 months ago
Tammy Scott, from Chelsea, Que., says residents placed pairs of children’s shoes along the community trail on Friday to commemorate the 215 children who were found in unmarked burial sites at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. 0:49

Pairs of tiny shoes now line a trail in Chelsea, Que., placed there during a solemn ceremony Friday afternoon.

The ceremony was held to commemorate the 215 children whose remains were discovered buried on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. in late May.

"I have a seven-year-old and an 11-year-old and I want to lead by example," said organizer Tammy Scott. "And show them that, when bad things happen, we have to be able to talk about it and we have to be motivated to want to do something about it."

More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forced to attend church-run, government-funded schools between the 1870s and 1997. 

Many were subjected to abuse, sexual assault and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called "cultural genocide."

A smudge ceremony was held Friday on the trail on Algonquin territory, where a railroad once ran.  Those in attendance wore orange T-shirts, which have been worn since 2013 to bring awareness to the trauma caused by the residential schools.

The trail was chosen because children escaping from residential schools often followed railway tracks in an attempt to return to their families, Scott said.

The shoes will remain in place for seven days before being moved to another community.

A vigil was held at the Human Rights Monument in downtown Ottawa Saturday evening. Those in attendance acknowledged the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former Kamloops, B.C., residential school and hoped to spur Canadian politicians to take further action. ( Rémi Authier/Radio-Canada)

'Tragic discovery'

In Ottawa, dozens of people attended an interfaith vigil at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street Saturday night.

"Not only do we have to acknowledge the tragic discovery of 215 Indigenous children's remains," said organizer Fareed Khan, "but we have to talk about the fact that this is not new news."

"These sorts of things have been known, and there has not been the government action that has needed to be taken."

Pressure has been mounting for Pope Francis to issue a formal apology for the Catholic church's involvement and the publication of records associated with the residential school system.

On Sunday, the Pope expressed his sorrow over the discovery of the bodies, but did not apologize.

The federal government has also been accused of resisting efforts to publish records related to the residential school system and the atrocities that took place within the schools.

"Part of this is to honour the memory of, not only the children, but all Indigenous residential school survivors and all Indigenous people," Khan said. "But also call to action on political leaders to actually do what needs to be done."

With files from Sandra Abma and Rémi Authier

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