In Toronto’s Liberty Village, on the West end of King Street, stands the Allan A. Lamport Stadium. Eternally sunkissed, even in the midst of Ontario’s bitter February, the 9,000-person capacity sports centre is host to a small snack shack, a sprawling parking lot and 20-foot high stadium seats. But underneath the cleat-beaten turf and white striped lines lies the foundation of the Andrew Mercer Reformatory, one of Canada’s most notorious female prisons. 

150 kilometres away lives Robert Burke. Despite residing a two hours drive from the former prison, Burke’s connection to the area runs deep. Burke was born in the reformatory and despite only spending the first year of his life there, the horrors he witnessed as a baby and faced following his mother’s release still haunt him to this day, nearly seventy years later.

Now, Burke is tired. Dedicating most of his adult life to carry on his mother’s legacy and advocating for other “Mercer Babies” that too may have been hidden from the truths of their childhood, Burke believes his story is just one of the possibly many others from the children of the Andrew Mercer Reformatory.

Robert Burke tells the story of his mother’s wrongful conviction into the Andrew Mercer Reformatory in 1950.

The Allan Lamport Stadium stands on 1155 King St. W, Feb 25. It serves the Liberty Village community as both an indoor and outdoor recreational centre. (RSJ/Elizabeth Sargeant)
Burke sifts through old documents in his home on Alderville First Nations Reserve, Feb. 25. Burke says that he wishes he had all of this information much earlier in his life. (RSJ/Elizabeth Sargeant)
A framed photo of Burke’s mother, Muriel J. Walker hangs in Burke’s family living room. According to Burke, his mother was passionate about ballet and was arrested before her career in dance could take off. (RSJ/Elizabeth Sargeant)
One of Burke’s horses nibbles on his coat sleeve beside his home, Feb. 25, 2020. (RSJ/Elizabeth Sargeant)
Burke’s painting depicts his mother Muriel trapped beneath ice. He says that he wanted to represent her battle with mental health through this piece, Feb. 25. (RSJ/Elizabeth Sargeant)
The sun sets over a play structure outside of the main entrance of the stadium on Feb. 25. More than 70 years before, documents show that babies were raised in the reformatory while their mothers finished their sentencings. (RSJ/Elizabeth Sargeant)

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