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Barrie Memorial grows for victims of Kamloops residential school

June 2021

A memorial has sprung up at the iconic Spirit Catcher in Barrie, Ontario, one of many across Canada, meant to honour the 215 Indigenous children who were recently found buried in unmarked graves at the former Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia. Some of them were as young as three years old.

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, on whose land the former school stands, hired a firm to conduct a search of the land with ground-penetrating radar.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School, established in 1890, was part of the Canadian Indian residential school system, funded by federal Department of Indian Affairs, but run by churches such as the Catholic and Anglican Churchs. The federal government took over the school in 1969, until closing it in 1978.

The residential school system was established for the purpose of assimilating Indigenous children into the dominant, European-Canadian culture, by removing them from the influence of their own culture, by forcibly removing them from their families and communities. To put it bluntly, it was “to kill the Indian in the child.”

It has long been rumoured that many of the former residential schools had buried children who died at the schools, from a variety of causes in unmarked graves, but none had previously been uncovered and apparently no records were kept. Parents of the children were never told what happened to their children.

There are now calls from Indigenous leaders across Canada for similar searches at the other closed residential schools across the country. Plans being made for forensic experts to identify the remains, with the hope that they can be returned home for burial.

Organizers of the Barrie memorial are encouraging people to place shoes in honour of all those who attended the residential schools, where many were physically and psychologically abused.

The school’s buildings still stand today, with the main building used as the Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park.


Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park

From the museum web page:

“The Secwépemc Museum and Heritage Park is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of our culture and language.

Our museum is home to a variety of exhibits that offer an insightful look into Secwépemc culture, heritage and  Secwepemcúl̓ecw (Secwépemc land). There are displays about life before contact, ethnobotony, the Kamloops Indian Residential School as well as contemporary topics and Secwépemc art.”


The main administrative building of the former school is pictured in 1970. (Department of Citizenship and Immigration- Information Division / Library and Archives Canada)

Sources: Barrie Memorial grows for victims of Kamloops residential school | CTV News, Remains of 215 children found buried at former B.C. residential school, First Nation says | CBC News, Kamloops Indian Residential School – Wikipedia, https://secwepemcmuseum.ca.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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