The Manitoba government is creating a new permanent garden on the grounds in memory of thousands of Indigenous children who never returned home from residential schools in Manitoba and across the country.

The decision was made during a consultation and collaboration with the organizers of the Every Child Matters flag display at the Legislative Building grounds.

"Over the past several years, Canadians have become increasingly aware of the harms caused by the residential school system," says Consumer Protection and Government Services Minister James Teitsma. "The new Every Child Matters memorial garden will create an opportunity and a place for reflection for Manitobans in honour of the memory of the children who never returned home to their families from residential schools, as we continue to work toward reconciliation."

The new garden will be on the south grounds of the Legislative Building alongside Assiniboine Avenue and will feature a mix of orange annuals and perennials such as lilies, roses and marigolds. Later this spring, a memorial plaque and bench will be installed for visitors to sit and reflect, the minister said.

The orange Every Child Matters flags currently on display on the north side of the Legislative Building grounds will be relocated to the new garden this weekend, led by the organizers of the display. The flags will be replaced with the garden flowers as soon as the weather allows in order to create a more permanent tribute to the children, the minister said, noting that organizers who initially created the flag display have selected meaningful plants in consultation with an elder.

"It has been our absolute honour taking on the task of installing and maintaining the Every Child Matters flag display. We could have never predicted the immense impact that our actions would have on the community," says Tara Martinez, co-organizer of the display installation. "Over the last two years, many Indigenous and non-Indigenous supporters of the Children First Society of Canada have helped to make this happen, proving that although we don’t always agree on past transgressions, we can choose to move forward in a positive way."

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has documented 6,000 children who died while attending residential schools across the country. The commission estimates that of the 6,000 documented deaths, 338 children died while attending such schools in Manitoba. However, the true number of children who died while attending these institutions is likely much higher.