The temporary residential schools memorial on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery was installed as an independent initiative by a Haida artist in May 2021 after Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc announced the confirmation of the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
The temporary residential schools memorial fulfilled an important and acute need for a site to gather and grieve together during this painful time. It became a place of grieving and healing for many Indigenous Peoples, including residential school survivors, and a place for non-Indigenous people to learn and pay respects to the children who died at residential schools across Canada.
Update - May 26, 2023
Following a private burning ceremony on Sunday May 21, 2023, the City of Vancouver has respectfully brought the Residential School temporary memorial at Robson Square to a close. In doing this work, City staff have followed teachings by xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations in hopes to nourish those children, help them find peace and support them to continue their journey to join their ancestors.
In xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səlilwətaɬ teachings handed down through generations, memorials are temporary in nature to allow the spirits of those commemorated to move along on their journeys.
The City is grateful to the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and səlilwətaɬ Nations for their invaluable guidance and patience throughout this process.
The City thanks the volunteers and the artist for supporting an important and acute need to gather and grieve during this painful time. The City recognizes that this was a deeply meaningful and challenging undertaking.
Following a brushing ceremony, the City will now reactivate the plaza for public use, including supporting Indigenous weekend markets throughout the summer at Robson Square.
The City understands the emotional and difficult nature of the process, especially for Indigenous community members, Residential School survivors, and their families. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society Emergency Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for those that may need counselling or support after receiving this distressing information. Call 1-800-721-0066 or the 24-hour crisis line 1-866-925-4419.
Should you wish to support Residential School survivors, the City suggests a donation to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society External website, opens in new tab , rather than additional items to Robson Square.