Children's shoes and a teddy bear were placed on the front steps of St. Peter's Church in St. Peter's in response to the finding of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former Residential School in British Columbia.

By: Jake Boudrot

and Drake Lowthers

STRAIT AREA: Reactions continue to pour in from across the region after it was confirmed last week that the remains of 215 Indigenous children were uncovered near a former residential school in Kamaloops, British Columbia.

Members of the Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation laid 215 pairs of shoes on the steps of St. Ninan’s Cathedral in Antigonish on June 1 to represent the 215 children who were found in an unmarked grave.

Elder and StFX Knowledge Keeper Kerry Prosper, and his daughter, along with Paqtnkek’s Director of Economic Development Rose Paul, guided the emotional vigil.

Approximately 100 community members, who were physically distanced, were there to show their support.

Following the playing of the “Mi’kmaq Honour Song,” children from Paqtnkek and the surrounding area placed roses on the shoes.

Children’s shoes, toys, flowers and teddy bears were laid on the front steps of St. Peter’s Church in St. Peter’s earlier this week.

Along with Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, We’koqma’q First Nation Chief Annie Bernard-Daisley was part of the effort to have government offices, business, groups, and others fly flags at half-staff in memory of those children.

“On behalf of chief and council, we express our deepest sympathies to all of our residential school survivors. To the families of the children who were found in a mass grave, our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to you,” read a Facebook post from the We’koqma’q Community Site. “To the children, words will never express the sorrow we have for you. May the Creator be with you all.”

The post noted that the Government of Canada has continuously failed to recognize that genocide has repeatedly been a national shame and is still an ongoing epidemic.

“Our hearts are with everyone in our Indigenous nation,” the post concluded.

In a Facebook post, the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative confirmed that similar work is taking place in this province.

“In light of the recent heart breaking news out of BC, we want community members to know that similar work has been ongoing here in Nova Scotia.”

The Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association (NSNWA) expressed its condolences to the families and communities of the 215 Indigenous children found in a mass grave at Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, known as the Kamloops Residential School site.

“Our hearts go out to all of these children, their families and community members. Who knows how many more Residential School sites covered up the deaths of our children. Those were our ancestors, our families. We, as a Nation, are mourning these losses and we should all be calling for the Government of Canada to check every Residential School site with ground penetrating radar,” said Bernadette Marshall, Interim President of the NSNWA.

The association said that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed to further reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous peoples, which had 94 Calls to Action in 2015, and only 10 calls have been completed to date.

“As Indigenous peoples in this country, we have been waiting for these Calls to Action to be completed, as well as, the 231 Calls to Justice for our Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. Canada should be ashamed.”

The NSNWA said it will show solidarity and support for the 215 children, their families, communities and for all of those who have lost their lives at a Residential School across Canada by placing an orange shirt, teddy bear or shoes on front steps and leaving porch lights on for 215 hours, in the hopes that the souls will find their way home.