BRANTFORD — For the second year in a row, there was a sea of orange in Brantford on Canada Day to remind the world that thousands of children died in residential schools in an attempt to assimilate Indigenous people into Canadian culture.
Hundreds of people marched through Brantford on July 1 wearing bright orange shirts declaring Every Child Matters to honour residential school survivors and the children who never made it home
in Canada’s ill-conceived attempt to turn them into Canadian citizens at the church-run boarding schools that denied them their language, culture, and basic human rights.
The group made its way to the Woodland Cultural Centre, the site of the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School, where a ground search began last fall for potential
hidden graves of former students.
During the march, attendees chanted “Every Child Matters” – a reference to survivors of residential schools.
At the school grounds, former student and Mohawk Institute survivor Roberta Hill told the crowd she had some good memories of the school but only because, “of the kids I made
friends with. All the bad memories happened in this building beside me.”
Hill attended the Mush Hole – the name given to the Mohawk Institute for the bland, mush-like porridge the kids ate for breakfast every day – from 1957 to 1961. The school closed down in
1971, about 150 years after it first began operating. It is the oldest residential school in Canada.
The legacy of abuse suffered by children at residential schools across the country still reverberates in Indigenous communities across Canada, which is why many First Nation
communities chose not to celebrate Canada Day at all, but instead, to honour residential school survivors and its victims.
“You can’t erase the memories of what happened to those children,” said Hill.
The march was organized by the Brant Region Indigenous Support Centre (BRISC), which also hosted a similar walk last year in the wake of the discovery of hundreds of hidden
graves at a former residential school in British Columbia that sent shockwaves around the world.
Similar graves have since been uncovered at other former residential school sites across the country.
“Instead of celebrating Canada, we honour our survivors,” said BRISC executive director.