Indigenous groups have called for the cancellation of Canada’s national celebration for the discovery of nearly 1,000 unmarked graves, most of which are believed to belong to indigenous children.
July 1 marks 154 years since Canada became a country, and until recently, festivities were expected in cities across the country, amplified by the arrival of summer and the pent-up excitement of a country emerging from the pandemic of coronavirus.
But two grim discoveries on the grounds of the former residential schools have quickly changed the national mood.
“We will not celebrate stolen indigenous lands or stolen indigenous lives. Instead, we will come together to honor all the lives lost by the Canadian state, ”the group said. Idle no more, calling for national demonstrations to support indigenous communities.
At least 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families to attend the famous schools. They were given new names, forcibly converted to Christianity, and prohibited from speaking their native languages. The last residential school closed in the 1990s.
“This upcoming Canada Day, I believe that we must all commit to doing what we can to continue that effort to improve Canada, respecting and listening to those for whom it is not yet a day of celebration,” said Justin Trudeau. In the past week.
The #CancelCanadaDay hashtag has taken off on social media, with many suggesting that the celebrations and fireworks are out of touch with the nascent reality that there are still more unmarked graves waiting to be discovered.
“I don’t think people really understand how much indigenous people were forced to pay to this country. Our spirituality was taken away. They took away our way of life, our languages and our families. With the remains that we continue to find, people begin to see that the indigenous people paid in full, with their lives, ”said Sol Mamakwa, a legislator from Ontario. Kingfisher First Nation.
Instead of celebrating, Mamakwa has asked Canadians to spend the day reflecting and mourning the children who never came home.
“It is important that we recognize this history, the pain and what was done to the indigenous peoples of this country.”
Some cities have canceled their celebrations entirely, while others have planned events that will reflect a gloomy national mood.
Victoria, British Columbia, became the first city to cancel its Canada Day programming, announcing that it would consult with the Lekwungen community and rebroadcast celebrations with local artists in late summer.
Across the country, in the city of Fredricton, officials say the city will light up in orange, the color closely related to that of Canada. residential school history – and urges citizens to spend the day learning about indigenous communities.
The City of Dawson has said it will donate all funds for Canada Day celebrations to an investigation of residential schools in the Yukon Territory.
A. Recent poll commissioned by the conservative National Post suggested that the “vast majority” of Canadians want to keep the holiday and that calls to rethink the holiday reflect the isolated thinking of social media.
“I am concerned that injustices in our past or present are too often exploited by a small group of activist voices who use it to attack the very idea of Canada,” said Conservative leader Erin O’Toole last week. . “We are seeing news this week of canceled Canada Day celebrations. Canada Day, our day of celebration, when Canadians of all backgrounds come together to give thanks for living in the greatest country in the world. “
Despite the great emotional excitement that last month’s findings had in communities, Mamakwa feels optimistic Canadians are finally considering the country’s dark past.
“Oppression, colonialism, genocide and crimes against humanity – people are learning that their government, their churches and their police did this,” he said. “It is important that people finally know the real history of this country, because it is our shared history.”