Photos: Memorial representing children told it needs to be taken down

The memorial has since been fenced off from the public but has also become a gathering place to mourn and pay respects


By Mateo Muego, Roy Fang & Virender Singh

The memorial outside the Vancouver Art Gallery of children’s shoes representing the 215 children who never returned home from the Kamloops residential school must be dismantled, the city of Vancouver has ordered. 

Chief Wayne Sparrow of the Musqueam Nation said that he was disappointed at those running the memorial for not respecting the wishes of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations, according to an interview with CTV.

The First Nations groups were not consulted before the installation of the memorial and did not grant formal permission for it.

More than a week after the city announcement the memorial remains and a new teepee been added to the site.

On a rainy morning, our reporter spoke to the guardians inside the teepee behind the Vancouver Art Gallery. They expressed their discontent with the mainstream news coverage about the residential school memorial coming down. They felt the reporting had been exploitative and invasive. One of the guardians said they felt the space was sacred and a symbol of unity for different communities in the city.

Originally installed by Haida artist Tamara Bell in May 2021, the memorial comprises of 215 pairs of children shoes laid out on the steps of the gallery. It is due to come down in place of a more permanent memorial eventually.

The guardians alternate their shifts with a rotation of three people, and aside from making sure that no one crosses the barricades, they also help in the upkeep and cleanliness of the memorial sites. Even though they have heaters and blankets, one of them complained about the damp getting into the tents and the noise from the busy intersections nearby.

The memorial has become a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike who sometimes take photos and gather in small groups to pay their respects to the residential school children.


The city of Vancouver said in a press release that the memorial outside the Vancouver Art Gallery needs to come down. Photo: Mateo Muego.


The memorial is located at a space representing unity and healing. Photo: Mateo Muego.



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