Canada

Calls for cancellation: Maritimers weigh in on a movement to drop Canada Day

SYDNEY, N.S. —
There are calls to cancel Canada Day since the discovery of 215 Indigenous children buried on the site of a former residential school in British Columbia.

But in Nova Scotia, some think it’s not so much about cancelling or changing Canada Day, July 1st should be a day of education and a chance to learn from one another.

A Mi’kmaq and Canadian flag fly side-by-side at half-mast outside the Memebrtou Heritage Centre in Sydney, N.S.

Many people in the First Nations community continue to reflect on the tragic findings on the west coast of Canada late last month.

“I’m glad that it’s not a story that was just once and left and is no longer in the news,” says Jeff Ward, general manager of Heritage Park.

The discovery of 215 Indigenous children’s bodies in Kamloops, B.C. last month hits close to home for Ward, whose mother is a residential school survivor.

He’s among a chorus in favour of cancelling Canada Day celebrations, and calls Victoria, B.C.’s decision to do so one that recognizes the seriousness of the situation.

“There is a lot of systemic racism that exists today and I feel this is the start or the beginning of what we call reconciliation part of reconciliation,” says Ward.

The mayor of Victoria, B.C. says it’s hard to sing and dance and celebrate when so many people are grieving.

“Context changed when those 215 children’s bodies were discovered. They are reeling and everybody is reeling. We’re all just doing our best to figure out how to move forward,’ says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

Across the country, the hashtag Cancel Canada Day is gaining traction on social media, with rallies planned from coast to coast on July 1.

“It’s very hard to feel pride in Canada these days, so yes, I think it’s a good idea to just cancel it for this year,” says resident Margo Taylor-Ritchie.

But the question is, should Canada Day be permanently pushed off the calendar?

“My respectful advice would be to keep Canada Day. Do not cancel it, but use it as an occasion to reflect on who we are as a country and where we’re going together,” says Tom Urbaniak, a political science professor at Cape Breton University.

Urbaniak says taking the focus away from the issue at hand could become a real problem.

“This debate, I fear, is distracting from the important focus and work that needs to happen on reconciliation and on ensuring each of the treaties are upheld,” he says.

“I know there’s a great sense of pride for people to be Canadian, but when you’re Indigenous and look at our history, it’s hard to see the things that has happened,” says Ward.

Urbaniak says since this is the second Canada Day in the pandemic with no mass gatherings and smaller virtual events, it’s a chance for people to reflect on how committed we are to reconciliation and where this country is going.


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