Robson Plaza unlocked as memorial items scattered across Vancouver

May 19 2023, 11:55 pm

Robson Plaza was unlocked for pedestrians after City of Vancouver staff began taking down a residential school memorial on the Vancouver Art Gallery Steps on Friday morning.

People walking downtown passed through the blue fencing and into the square around 2:30 pm, although some items from the memorial, including two tipis, remained in place.

robson plaza

Regina Ng/Daily Hive


robson plaza

Regina Ng/Daily Hive

The memorial was set up by a Haida artist nearly two years ago after the remains of hundreds of children were found buried at a former Kamloops residential school, and it quickly became a site of grieving for many people in Metro Vancouver.

But the City of Vancouver has been in talks with organizers to bring the memorial to a close in recent months because it’s not in keeping with Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh traditions. According to a City of Vancouver news release, their teachings say the spirits of the children will remain tethered to the shoes and may not be able to move on.

Desiree Simeon, head of “vigil keepers” outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, had wanted the memorial to stay in place until its second anniversary on May 28. But she said the City of Vancouver moved up the removal timeline and added talks with officials have been tense.

City staff arrived at the memorial to begin taking it down early Friday morning to find most of the items had already been removed. Staff apparently witnessed volunteers carrying items away in bags to an “undisclosed” location.

On Friday afternoon, the City of Vancouver said it’s now discovered what happened to the items. The stuffed animals and shoes have been moved to various places around the city.

The items were supposed to be wrapped in blankets and taken to a burning ceremony, in keeping with local First Nation cultural protocol, on May 21.

The City is now asking residents to email [email protected] if they see the items so they can be collected and transferred to prepare for the private burning ceremony.

“Out of respect for the spiritual processes that have started well before today around bringing the memorial to a close in a good way this weekend, we ask that anyone who encounters these items to please not engage with them,” the City spokesperson said.

With files from Daily Hive’s Regina Ng

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