A row of children's shoes and toys sit neatly on concrete steps.
A memorial at Peterborough City Hall on June 1, 2021. Community members are leaving children’s toys, teddy bears and shoes to mourn the unknown number of children who died in Canada's Indian Residential Schools. (Photo: Ayesha Barmania)
Ayesha Barmania  - 
June 1, 2021

News broke over the weekend that an unmarked mass grave for 215 children was discovered at a former residential school site in British Columbia. Since then, a memorial has sprung up at Peterborough City Hall, where community members are leaving children’s toys, teddy bears and shoes.

This afternoon, Amanda Brown held an orange sweatshirt that reads “Every Child Matters” and Janet McCue drummed an honour song near the memorial.  

Brown is a survivor of the Sixties Scoop, which was the programmatic removal of Indigenous children from their communities to be raised by settler families starting in the 1960s.

“I’m from the east coast, but I grew up here, because I was part of the government trying to wipe out the Indian population,” she says. “And I’m here to let the government know that they’re not winning. We’re not going anywhere. And all this has done is spark a fire, and we will stand together.”

While I was at the memorial, Peyton LeVarr placed a pair of baby shoes among the others. She’s a new mother of a four-month-old. She says that the news hit her very hard, though she wasn’t shocked.

“It’s not new,” she says. “It’s just overwhelming.”

She knew she wanted to place a colourful pair of shoes in the memorial. “I thought that if [the children] are looking down, maybe they can pick the colours that they like,” she says. “I picked the most colourful pair.”

Brightly coloured stripes children's shoes on a concrete step.

Education resources on residential schools can be found on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website.