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Canada Day Debate Rages On

Ari Lord
By Ari Lord
June 29th, 2021

Communities across BC are calling into question Canada Day celebrations in response to the discovery of the bodies of Indigenous children at a former residential school site in Kamloops and, recently, as the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan.

Shortly after those findings, #cancelcanadaday began trending on social media.

Following the discovery in Kamloops, the City of Victoria, announced cancelling of planned events for July 1st.

A day after Victoria cancelled its Canada Day celebrations, BC Premier John Horgan said he does not want other cities to do the same.

“The intent, I can understand,” says Horgan.

“The 21st of June, National Indigenous Peoples’ Day, would be a more appropriate time for us to collectively focus on how we can redress the wrongs of the past, and build a brighter future together.”

So, the debate raged on. Then Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki stated that Canada Day festivities would not happen this year in the South Okanagan City.

“Out of respect for Indigenous communities across Canada who are grieving, it is important to Penticton city council that this year’s Canada Day activities honour the history, culture and traditions of Indigenous people,” he said.

This year, due to COVID-19, the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce announced there would be no hosting the annual Community Celebration at Lakeside Park.

In 2020, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual celebration.

“We encourage you to celebrate Canada Day at home with smaller family gatherings at Lakeside Park, Gyro, Taghum Beach or Kokanee Creek Provincial Park,” the June edition of the Nelson Chamber of Commerce newsletter said.

“Organize small backyard get togethers with family and friends, or head downtown or within the region to support local restaurants.”

This newsletter statement seems to reflect that the Chamber is encouraging celebrations without acknowledgement of Indigenous grieving. 

But then, on June 28th, days away from Canada Day, the City of Nelson posted to Facebook: 

Mayor and Council acknowledge that Indigenous communities across Canada are grieving and would like to formally recognize those who have survived residential schools and those that have not. 

Although this year’s Canada Day celebrations are cancelled due to COVID-19 and related public health orders, Council encourages residents to spend time this July 1st enjoying our green spaces and amenities around the community while celebrating this great nation of ours while also reflecting on the history and how we can come together to be a more inclusive community. 

Council hopes that future Canada Day celebrations in Nelson will continue to celebrate the long history and many contributions of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

For many, the 2021 Canada Day may not be the time for celebrations.

There remains intense calls for Canada Day to take on a new meaning in our national imagination.

Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Canada Day needs to be a day of reflection and acknowledgment.

“It is a day to recognize that it is a beautiful country, but there are some terrible things that have happened,” Bellegarde told The Globe.

Indigenous communities, still reeling from the immense loss, say that we can’t hide from this past anymore. 

The positive side of these findings is it is an opportunity for us all to take action. Indiginews, a BC Indigenous news resource, posted a list of what non-Indigenous people can do right now to start making a difference.

Anyone who is non-Indigenous should consider working through this list with friends and family on July 1st.

This maybe the time for critical work to be done so the country can move forward towards a better future in our community and beyond.

Categories: General

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