‘I don’t just see the shoes; I see the children sitting there’: Calgary residential school memorial vandalized twice in one week  

Once a day, Robbie Daniels smudges shoes and toys that are placed on the steps of Calgary’s city hall to honour residential school children.

“Now that they’re found and it’s hard for them to go into the spirit world,” he said “That’s why I come here and ask the relation on the other side to invite them in.”

The memorial has been growing since the discovery of 215 children near the Kamloops Indian Residential School on May 27, but in the past week, it’s been vandalized twice.

On Aug. 9, caretakers of the site arrived to a destroyed memorial. The shoes appeared to have been kicked around according to a Facebook post. 

Caretakers of the memorial arrived to a destroyed display. Photo courtesy: Albert Woo.

Before that, someone had set fire to the memorial.

“When I look at this memorial, I don’t just see the shoes, I see the children sitting there, the ones that are waiting to be found,” said Nicole Johnston, an advocate for residential school survivors.

“And that’s what hurts. I see the spirits of these children.”

Some shoes in the memorial were burned, Police Extremism and Hate Crimes Unit are investigating. Photo: Tamara Pimentel/APTN.

In response to the vandalism, Johnston organized a walk. Dozens drummed and sang while walking past Calgarians sitting at patios during the lunch hour.

Johnston said there needs to be more awareness and education on residential schools.

“To me it was an expected thing because of the racism that still exists here,” she said.

“It has to be implemented into the school systems. That’s what we’re also walking for, for the truth to be put out there.”

Calgary Police are asking for the public’s help to locate a man caught on CCTV setting fire to the memorial. Photo: Calgary Police Services.

Calgary Police have released a CCTV photo of the man who set fire to the memorial.

The extremism and hate crimes unit is investigating and asking for the public’s help to locate the man.

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