Virden shares the grief of residential school deaths

The atrocities committed at "Indian residential schools" as they were called, continue to be found out, the most recent discovery being the remains of at least 215 children, discovered at the Kamloops, BC residential school. A memorial has been started in Virden’s Victoria Park, on the Chevron stage and the public is invited there, to share the grief.

Kelly Cowan posted about the memorial on her Facebook page. “We have set up a spot in Virden to place shoes and/or teddies for the 215 children’s bodies that were found in Kamloops.”

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Cowan, whose step-father was a residential school survivor explained her concern and what prompted the action, “My daughter and I started it to make people aware that this did happen, genocide was real." 

Several other women helped Cowan to get this memorial started.

She says, “I have heard stories and seen scars, it’s horrible. These babies need to be remembered, that’s 215 children who never made it home, parents who never knew what exactly happened to those babies. We are made aware of everything else from veterans to celebrities. This was one thing that matters and shouldn’t be ignored.”

Reconciling with the past, which has carried forward too many scars, is both necessary and possible. The path to healing requires Canadians to recognize the genocidal and arogant attitude of some of Canada’s powerful toward vulnerable people of that day, the Indigenous peoples. In some cases, too many, history now records that attitude played out in the worst of residential school experiences, even leading to the death of children.

This new discovery is another milestone on a rugged but important path for First Nations people. They suffer yet again as such discoveries come to light.

We need to share the grief of children taken from parents. And this treatment wasn’t only in residential schools. Some children were fostered, or adopted. Some had a rough experience there. And we need to acknowledge some had very good homes in foster care or adoption. But some did not.

In Canada’s walk toward wholeness, finding these remains of children who perished at residential schools is very important. If Canada can provide the way to repatriate their remains, this will honour these children and help bring closure to the families.

We know of two nearby residential schools in Westman: Birtle and Elkhorn schools.

The Birtle school was still standing in 2019, but in danger of demolition, although the current owner stated he had a plan to restore the building.

Although the building or as in Elkhorn’s case, the school bell, can trigger emotional pain, as part of history, these are important items and the geographic locations remind us all that this evil part of Canadian history really happened. As Kelly Cowan said, “My daughter and I started the memorial to make people aware that this did happen, genocide was real.”

A gravesite is also located near Elkhorn.

The story of the school bell at the Elkhorn Museum is here:

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