The City of Vancouver has removed a memorial to the suspected graves of Indigenous children who died while attending residential schools.
When news of the 215 suspected unmarked graves was announced at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in May 2021, memorials consisting of empty children’s schools popped up across the country.
A display outside the Vancouver Art Gallery was set up in June 2021 by Haida Artist Tamara Bell whose late mother attended residential schools.
She came to the gallery and placed some shoes on the steps – others soon joined.
“It was so emotional because I really didn’t know what else to do,” she said. “I’m still hurt by all of this stuff. I’m still hurt for our people, you know, people come and they still talk to me about residential school and how much pain they have and so much we need to do how much healing we have to do with not only the trauma of residential school but the inter-generational trauma.”
The problem with the memorial is that the host First Nation doesn’t support it because protocols weren’t followed.
Bell said she didn’t mean any disrespect and only intended the display to honour children to went to these institutions.
She said she approached some elders to try the protocols they suggested.
But in late March, Vancouver made the decision to remove the memorial.
“The City acknowledges that there is still a need for mourning and healing spaces. While the temporary memorial cannot remain at Robson Square, the City is committed to continuing to work with xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səlilwətaɬ Nations and Urban Indigenous communities to create spaces in the public realm for this purpose,” said a statement from the city.