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Church bells chime 215 times to mark lives of children discovered in unmarked burial sites

Click to play video: 'Church bells chime 215 times to mark lives of 215 children discovered in unmarked burial sites' Church bells chime 215 times to mark lives of 215 children discovered in unmarked burial sites
Calgarians continue to find ways to honor the memories of 215 children found in an unmarked burial site in Kamloops. As Jill Croteau reports, it's been a startling discovery but is a start to bridge gaps in desperate need of repair. – Jun 1, 2021

It took nearly seven minutes for the church bell at Hillhurst United to ring 215 times at exactly 2:15 Tuesday afternoon. Every chime represented a young life lost.

The bells were to honor the children discovered in the unmarked burial site at a former residential school in Kamloops.

Read more: ‘It’s blood-curdling’: Calls for accountability after burial site found at B.C. residential school

Tony Snow is the Indigenous lead with Hillhurst United Church.

“There’s a value in shocking people into understanding the extent of what happened by ringing those bells 215 times.

“It is something out of the ordinary. People are not expecting it but it reinforces the message: these are lives lost.”

215 orange ribbons are tied outside Hillhurst United. Jill Croteau/Global News

Bishop William McGrattan with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary said he was shocked and saddened by the news.

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“Hopefully our church can learn from this and recognize we are a sinful broken people,” McGrattan said.

“We have to recognize our own weakness and sinfulness but that doesn’t define us.

“There is a greater hope and aspiration in the gift we have as humans and we have to discover that again through paths of reconciliation.”

Click to play video: 'The search for accountability for Kamloops Residential School victims.' The search for accountability for Kamloops Residential School victims.
The search for accountability for Kamloops Residential School victims – May 31, 2021

He said now is the time for sensitivity and commitment and an openness towards a formal papal apology.

“We have taken this seriously at the local and provincial level,” McGrattan said. “Society might not realize it but we have been engaging communities about how this would take place, what would be involved and how can their story be heard by the Holy Father?

“We understand having an apology would mean a lot and we shouldn’t discard that.

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“Our Holy Father recognized that and his heart would be open to that and we need to continue that discussion,” McGrattan said.

Read more: Residential schools: What we know about their history and how many died

Many in the Indigenous community acknowledged forgiveness doesn’t mean forgiveness. There is a poignant act of remembrance, initiated by the Stoney Nakoda First Nation.

Community members are tying 215 teddy bears along the Trans Canada highway.

Click to play video: 'First Nation leaders call for faster action on finding suspected graves of residential schoolchildren' First Nation leaders call for faster action on finding suspected graves of residential schoolchildren
First Nation leaders call for faster action on finding suspected graves of residential schoolchildren – May 31, 2021

Wesley Nation member Chris Goodstoney said the public roadside display is intended to forever remind Canadians about the atrocities.

“There were thousands of kids who didn’t make it home from residential schools and this line of teddy bears — if we make it a mile or two — it gives people more than 60 seconds to think about this history in Canada,” Goodstoney said.

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READ MORE: ‘They were monsters that did this:’ Kamloops residential school survivor speaks out

Wesley Nation member Krista Hunter said the news is emotional for her community.

“We have been kind and humble people and it’s time Canada starts doing that to us.

“It’s time Canada reaches out with not just words, but actions.”

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