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A country divided: Calls to cancel Canada Day festivities grow louder

Last Updated Jun 16, 2021 at 4:38 pm EDT

FILE - A Canada flag is pictured with the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA – The call to cancel this year’s Canada Day festivities is growing across the country.

As Canadians continue to reel from the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., many activists say it’s the right thing to do, considering how Canada has let down Indigenous families and children.

While there is currently no official request to the federal government to have Canada Day put on hold nationwide, some communities are going ahead with cancellations at a local level.

Victoria, B.C. has decided to cancel its Canada Day celebrations, with Mayor Lisa Helps saying the community will instead explore and reflect on “what it means to be Canadian, in light of recent events.”


Wilmot Township, in the Waterloo Region of Ontario, has also decided to cancel festivities this year, saying the decision was made in light of the discovery in Kamloops. The township’s Canada Day committee chairwoman says the decision is out of respect for the Indigenous community’s grief, and event organizers will instead be offering a public art experience in lieu of celebrations.

Calls have also been growing in Edmonton to cancel the usual Canada Day festivities, but others say the events can still be held while paying tribute to lives lost and impacted.

Gunargie O’Sullivan, broadcaster and residential school survivor spoke with CityNews and said:

“If you are holding your own event, maybe you might want to invite a First Nations person from your community and ask if they will come and welcome you into their territory.”

There is also a growing online call to see Canada Day cancelled this year.

The Indigenous group ‘Idle No More’ is hosting an online ‘Cancel Canada Day’ event that “calls on Indigenous land, water and sky protectors and allies to come together and disrupt the celebration.”

Also, while the hashtag #CancelCanadaDay isn’t new, it is rapidly gaining traction on Twitter, with some saying a national day of mourning would be more appropriate. Though, many are using the hashtag to express the opposite opinion, saying while Canada has a flawed history, there is still much to be proud of a nation.

However, Indigenous proponents say simply moving forward glosses over the discovery in Kamloops and our nation’s real history.

“Do we live in denial and dance on the bones of children and pretend nothing is happening or do we take responsibility and comprehend the genocide that has been perpetrated against Indigenous people since the birth of Canada,” said Haida artist, Tamara Bell.

Celebrations, typically held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, are again going virtual this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There’s been no indication that the Heritage Canada events will be cancelled.

With files from The Canadian Press

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