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Vancouver asks artist, vigil keepers to end Indigenous children’s shoe memorial

City says art gallery memorial not aligned with spiritual practices of the three area First Nations
Two hundred and fifteen pairs of children’s shoes are placed on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery n Vancouver on Friday, May 28, 2021, as a memorial to children who did not return from residential schools. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Officials in Vancouver are meeting with the artist and volunteers who are keeping vigil on a children’s shoe memorial on the steps of the city’s art gallery in an effort to end the tribute to children who didn’t return from residential schools.

The installation started with 215 pairs of children’s shoes on the gallery steps and was set up shortly after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced the possible unmarked graves of children were found on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The city says in a statement it notified the artist in November that the growing memorial of shoes and stuffed animals needed to come down ahead of the two-year anniversary of the announcement of the Kamloops discovery this May.

The statement says the decision is supported by the local Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations.

It says the memorial was initially installed in response to the profound need for grieving and healing spaces, but the continuation of the memorial isn’t aligned with the spiritual practices of the three area First Nations.

The city says it should have acted sooner to bring the memorial to a close once it realized the local nations were not consulted and had not given permission for the installation.

The statement says the teachings handed down through generations for the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations say that “as long as the memorial remains, the spirits of the children will remain tethered to the items placed on the steps and cannot move on.”

READ MORE: Vancouver memorial growing to honour 215 children buried at residential school site

READ MORE: Memorial to residential school victims removed from Parliament Hill