Over the last two years, volunteers have been tending to a display of orange flags set up to honour the children who died attending residential schools.
This display, which had been located to the north of the legislative building in Winnipeg, is getting a new home. A permanent garden has been set up at the other end of the legislative grounds. The flags, an emblem of Every Child Matters, are being relocated and replaced with living plants – a mix of annuals and perennials, from lilies to roses and marigolds.
Manitoba’s minister of government services James Teitsma has called it a permanent tribute to the children of residential schools.
“The new Every Child Matters memorial garden will create an opportunity and a place for Manitobans in honour of the children who never returned home to their families from residential schools, as we continue to work toward reconciliation,” stated Teitsma in a press release on May 13.
A memorial plaque and bench is expected to be installed in the garden this spring.
Tara Martinez, co-organizer of the flag display, said it is important to move forward in a positive way.
“The flags are placed as a visual representation of how many children we’ve uncovered so far,” said Martinez. “There’s a difference between seeing it on a piece of paper and then physically seeing it before your eyes.”
Martinez alluded to the garden as a representation of moving forward; a reminder of what happened and to pay respect to the children that were lost.
Michael Yellowwing Kannon, an Anishinaabe advocate, said that having a permanent garden is the first step in marking a point in history – something to build on. They are like lessons, he said, that can be used to benefit future generations.
“You have to look out and see where the mistakes were (made) and not do them again, and commit to working with each other,” said Kannon.
While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada documented 6,000 children as having died within the residential school system, the actual number is expected to be higher, according to the province. Of the 6,000, at least 333 children died while attending schools in Manitoba.
The province was home to 19 residential schools.
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