Winnipeg committee to vote on 1972 plane crash memorial

A key vote at Winnipeg city hall this week will determine whether a memorial honouring the young victims of a devastating plane crash 52 years ago in St. James will be a step closer to reality. 

Council’s executive policy committee will vote Wednesday on a proposal to erect a memorial to the June 24, 1972, Linwood Street crash which killed eight residential school students being flown home from schools in Stonewall and Portage la Prairie to Bunibonibee Cree Nation (formerly known as Oxford House).

Students Margaret Robinson, Mary Rita Canada, Ethel Grieves, Rosalie Balfour, Wilkie Muskego, Iona Weenusk, and siblings Roy and Deborah Sinclair, along with pilot Scott Coughlin, all died, according to the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada. 

The museum has been a major proponent of the memorial, which would be made of polished granite and engraved with the names of the victims.

It would be placed on a commemorative plaza on the Yellow Ribbon Greenway Trail near Linwood Street and Silver Avenue, not far from the crash site. 

If approved, the city would contribute up to $5,000 in incidental costs relating to the installation. The museum has said it will leverage its access to the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee funds to pay for the memorial. The funds are aimed at advancing reconciliation in Manitoba. 

‘Part of Winnipeg’s collective history’

A report to EPC written by the city’s Indigenous relations manager, Cecil Sveinson, recommends approval of the memorial as a major educational opportunity for Winnipeggers. 

“This plane crash and the death of the children onboard is a devastating event in Winnipeg’s history that is not represented within our city. It also marks another tragedy resulting from the harmful legacy of the residential school system,” the report said. 

“Planes were often the primary means of transportation to some residential schools, especially in the North. In many Indigenous communities, the arrival of a plane signaled the tearing away of children from their families.

“The new commemorative site and monument will ensure that the names of these children and the devastating impacts of residential schools are remembered as part of Winnipeg’s collective history.” 

The aviation museum is also working with Bunibonibee Cree Nation to erect a memorial in that community. 

If EPC approves the plan, it will go to council for a final vote later in May.

Mayor Scott Gillingham, formerly the councillor for St. James and now the chair of EPC, has expressed support for the memorial plans in the past.