A memorial has been set up on the steps of St. Andrew’s United Church, honouring the lives of 215 children whose remains were found buried outside of a former residential school in Kamloops, B .C.
Kayleigh and Cassidy Olson are the two women behind the initiative. As First Nations women, they say it is vital that these children are never forgotten and that Canadians acknowledge our past and how it has affected the lives of generations.
“We want to show support and to have these shoes that represent children’s shoes because these were babies and children who were killed at these schools,” said Kayleigh Olson. “Our main goal is to have that conversation with people because these conversations are really hard to have with one another. The thing that is so symbolic right now is that this is at a church because it was the churches that did Indigenous people harm.
“I’m so grateful to Jim (Tenford) that he was able to have us out here to have the shoes showcased out here because these relationships are still so hard to find with our people and non-Indigenous people. That is the end goal — to have these conversations, as hard as they are. We need to do this and to educate each other.”
Rev. Jim Tenford of St. Andrew’s is glad the church is able to take part.
“Unfortunately, the church has had a very long and mixed history when it comes to Indigenous people. I got a phone call yesterday asking if they could do this on the steps and of course it has to be a yes. We need to be a part of this because that is what the church is supposed to be for; we are supposed to be here for healing… This is something we have to work through and the church has to be a part of it.”
The Moose Jaw Police Service participated in laying shoes on the steps of the church.
“It is important for us to come together as a community... Today is a day of mourning, grieving, and remembrance,” said Chief Rick Bourassa, adding that the shoes honour the spirits of the children. “We are a part of our community and we want to support this in every way we can.”
Chief Bourassa added that the flags at the police station will be flying at half mast this week.
The goal is to collect 215 pairs of shoes. You can drop by with a pair of shoes at any time. Everyone is invited to participate. Olson adds they are also asking people to bring battery-powered or solar lights to place on the steps so the memorial can be seen at night.
Kayleigh adds that, although Orange Shirt Day is typically held on September 30, they will be asking people to wear orange tomorrow, May 31.