Memorial at former Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. residential school for B.C. victims
SAULT STE. MARIE -- A memorial at Algoma University for the 215 children whose remains were recently discovered at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. continues to grow. Some of those in attendance are calling for an investigation of all residential school sites across Canada.
Families have been leaving shoes on the front steps of what was once the Shingwauk Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and only steps away from the gravestones of children who once attended.
Shingwauk Hall operated as a residential school for First Nations children from 1873 to 1970 and is now part of the Algoma University campus.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this," said Celeste Maurer, the organizer of the memorial. "I feel like every residential school needs to be checked after this. It’s just really tragic and it’s incredibly sad."
The memorial represents a painful chapter for many families, with some attendees leaving the memorial in tears.
"I never thought we would find more bodies of our children," said local artist Zoey Wood-Salomon, who was visibly moved by the memorial. "The only comfort that I get out of this is that the children are back with the Creator now."
Government buildings will have flags flying at half-mast. Some of those who attended the memorial at Algoma University said it’s a minimal gesture.
"It’s a small gesture compared to the big, massive event that’s just happened," said memorial attendee Steven McCoy. "Many Canadians are shocked at this history because it’s not something that’s been taught and Canada doesn’t want to admit it. And unfortunately, everybody knows now and they have to step up and admit these atrocities of history."
People of all ages have been leaving their shoes at the memorial, including four-year-old Binesi Kwissiwa who wanted to share his message with everyone.
"I’m here for the kids that have no mommy and daddy," Kwissiwa said.
A container is placed on the front steps of Algoma University for tobacco and prayer offerings. The tobacco will then be burned in a sacred fire at the end of each day.