Police seek suspect after memorial vandalized at former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont.

Executive director of Woodland Cultural Centre says items laid to honour victims were moved, damaged or burned

A memorial that has been growing at Canada’s oldest residential school was vandalized late in the evening of July 9 in Brantford, Ont., local police say.

Teddy bears, moccasins, signs, flowers and shoes have been placed at the steps of the Mohawk Institute Residential School after a May 27 statement from the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced that 215 children had been found buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

According to a July 13 statement from Brantford police, a lone suspect attended the site of the Mohawk Institute on July 9 at approximately 10:30 p.m. and remained for four hours. A number of items left to honour child victims of the residential school system were moved or damaged and some items were set on fire.

“A large portion of what was placed on the steps, it looks like it was thrown off the stairs,” said Janis Monture, executive director of the Woodland Cultural Centre which has been offering educational, curatorial, art and cultural programs at the site since 1972.

“Some of it was to the side of the stairs, others were actually moved to an area just sort of behind the historic plaque that is on the site and then for some reason, the individual placed a majority of the shoes in a perfect circle just to the front left of the stairs. They also started a fire and burned some of the items that were on the steps.”

Brantford police and Six Nations police condemned the acts and said in the statement they are working together to investigate the incident. A photo taken from surveillance video of the alleged suspect has been shared, and police are asking the public for help in identifying the individual.

Mohawk Institute
Surveillance footage released by Brantford police shows an alleged suspect at the former site of the Mohawk Institute. Photo: Brantford Police Service

According to Monture, some community members have noticed that their items are missing from the memorial but the vandalism has not stopped people from honouring the children who never came home.

Shortly after a police report was filed, the memorial was put back together.

“The memorial is very much community-driven, community-led. It’s their way of grieving and their way of remembering and honouring those children,” Monture told APTN News.

Thousands respectfully attended the site on Canada Day just days before the incident, amid calls for national reflection and remembrance.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Brantford Crime Stoppers by calling 519-750-8477 or 1-800-222-8477 or by submitting a web tip online at: https://www.crimestoppersbb.com/submit-a-tip/

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