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Monument honouring residential school survivors, missing children proposed for Timmins

Mayor says the Timmins Native Friendship Centre has reached out to collaborate
2019-06-28 TNFC MH
The Timmins Native Friendship Centre. Maija Hoggett/TimminsToday

A local monument honouring residential school survivors and missing children is in the works, according to Timmins Mayor George Pirie.

A 215 second silence was held at the start of tonight's Timmins council meeting.

That's one second for each of the 215 children whose remains were recently discovered at a former Kamloops residential school. 

Pirie said the executive director of the Timmins Native Friendship Centre has reached out to collaborate on an initiative to honour local residential school survivors and missing children.

“The idea proposed is to erect a monument or plaque with a garden bed to honour the residential school survivors and missing children of this area. A reminder to never forget and to look towards ongoing truth and reconciliation within Timmins,” he said.

If all goes well, he said there can be an event at Hollinger Park with social distancing protocols and guidance from Elders and survivors for how it should be structured.

He said the friendship centre will reach out to the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres for funding.

In Ontario, there are 18 known residential school sites, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).

On the James Bay coast, there were residential schools in Fort Albany and Moose Factory. The residential school closest to Timmins was Chapleau Indian Residential School.

The TRC identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario and estimated that at least 426 children who attended residential schools in Ontario are known to have died.

After the discovery of the remains in British Columbia, Pirie questioned what it means to be a Canadian for the first time in his life.

"How could this have happened? We often choose to forget our past includes the operation of more than 150 institutions that forcibly separated children from their families to assimilate them into Canadian society,” he said. 

With the discovery, he said people can no longer claim ignorance.

“We must now ask ourselves what our role will be in stopping this systemic racism. We have an obligation and opportunity to shape our future together and create healthy communities and healthy economies that are inclusive and diversive,” he said.