Orange flower garden at Manitoba Legislature will honour Indigenous children who died in residential schools

A display of orange flags sprouted up along the south lawn of the Manitoba Legislative Building this weekend to honour thousands of Indigenous children who were taken to residential schools across the country and never returned home.

The Every Child Matters flags display, relocated from the north to the south side of the legislature Saturday, is a prequel to what will become a permanent flower garden in memory of the young victims of residential schools and their loved ones.

The Every Child Matters garden will feature orange annuals and perennials such as marigolds, lilies and roses, according to a Manitoba government news release on Saturday.

Tara Martinez, co-organizer of the display installation, said in the release that it’s been an honour being involved in installing the display, “proving that although we don’t always agree on past transgressions, we can choose to move forward in a positive way.”

Government Services Minister James Teitsma said organizers selected “meaningful plants” after consulting with an elder to form a display that will “create an opportunity and a place for reflection.”

The site along Assiniboine Avenue will also get a plaque and bench for visitors to take in the garden and reflect on what it represents,

Teitsma said the flag display will be replaced by the garden as soon as weather conditions allow. He suggested the garden is a step “toward reconciliation.”

A jogger runs by a display of orange flags on a grassy area.
A jogger runs by the display of orange flags at the garden site on the south lawn of the Manitoba Legislature grounds Sunday. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

The original flag display on the north lawn of the legislature, along with encampments, formed in the aftermath of potential unmarked burial sites being discovered at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C., in 2021.

That served as a catalyst for searches of similar sites across the country, including in Manitoba.

Last summer, the province evicted two encampemnts from the legisulature grounds. Winnipeg police removed both in October.

The Truth and reconciliation Commission of Canada has documented about 6,000 cases of children who died attending residential schools across Canada, including 338 in Manitoba.

Those are just the documented cases; the province said the true number is “likely much higher.”

An orange sign reads 'Residential Schools had graveyards instead of playgrounds.'
An orange sign at the site reads “Residential ‘schools’ had graveyards instead of playgrounds.” (Bryce Hoye/CBC)