by Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
At Rotary Park in Downtown Kemptville, a small collection of orange painted rocks and a sign reading: “I’m sorry I didn’t know and wasn’t taught about your pain. I’m sorry you were hidden from the world as we continued on without you. I’m listening now”, has been erected as a memorial to the victims of Canada’s Residential School system.
Lisa Neil had the sign made, and placed the initial collection of orange rocks. But this collection has since grown, as other members of the community took the time to reflect on Canada’s history.
Each painted rock bears its own message. One reads, “Every child matters.” Another, “The Time for thoughts and prayers has passed. It’s time for action.”
Lisa explains that she, “wanted to raise some awareness, and acknowledge what I was feeling.”
Lisa and her husband are former foster parents, and they had fostered some Inuit and Indigenous children. She “worked in some boys’ group homes, where a lot of them had come from reserves.” The idea of those children being ripped from their lives and their homes, without anyone remarking upon it, underpins the wording of the sign.
Lisa shared pictures of the memorial on social media. The post has now been reacted to over 2,500 times. Lisa, and others in the comments, are sharing links to charitable donations supporting survivors of residential schools or Indigenous-led Truth and Reconciliation efforts.
There are also overwhelming requests from people wanting to purchase the sign. Lisa had the sign made at Classic Graphics in Kemptville.
The words on the sign are based on others with similar wording, but Lisa, “changed it bit to reflect how I was feeling.” Those feelings certainly seem to have resonated broadly through our community and beyond.
If you, or a family member, were a student at a residential school, you can call the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 for support.