WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.
Brantford police are looking for a vandal who spent more than four hours Friday night damaging a memorial to Indigenous children who died at residential schools.
The lone suspect, caught on surveillance footage, arrived at the Woodland Cultural Centre in the Ontario city — at the site of a former residential school — at about 10:30 p.m. ET Friday. Over the next four hours, the person set fire to numerous items left there to commemorate victims of the residential school system.
Children’s shoes were placed in front of the Woodland Cultural Centre after the remains of an estimated 215 children were detected in unmarked graves near the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., in May.
Soon after the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation near Kamloops used ground-penetrating radar to discover the graves, Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan revealed it had detected 751 unmarked graves on the site of the Marieval Indian Residential School, the last such Canadian institution to close, in 1997. Other communities have since confirmed their own such tragic findings.
‘Criminal acts’ condemned
The Brantford crime was reported to police on Saturday, and patrol officers visited the scene that day. They are working with the Six Nations Police Service to investigate the vandalism.
“Both agencies condemn the criminal acts of the suspect, who is believed to have acted alone, and remain committed to holding them accountable for their actions,” said a release issued Monday by Brantford police.
Anyone who has information about the crime can contact Det. Justin Torek of the Brantford Police Service at 519-756-0113 (ext. 2812) or Acting Det.-Sgt. Justin Isaacs of the Six Nations Police Service at 519-445-2811.
Anonymous information can be provided to Brantford Crime Stoppers by calling 519-750-8477 or 1-800-222-8477, or by submitting a web tip online at: https://www.crimestoppersbb.com/submit-a-tip/
Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools and those who are triggered by the latest reports. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.