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Victoria cancels Canada Day celebration in wake of Kamloops discovery

Last Updated Jun 11, 2021 at 7:15 am PDT

FILE - Victoria City Hall. (Source: City of Victoria)

Indigenous MLA says he's disappointed with Victoria council's decision to cancel Canada Day celebration

Those supportive of cancelling Canada Day say they will host event to help others understand Indigenous history

215 Indigenous children's remains were discovered at a former residential school in Kamloops in May

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The city of Victoria has decided to cancel its Canada Day celebrations.

Mayor Lisa Helps says the city is instead going to explore “what it means to be Canadian, in light of recent events,” adding a broadcast will be aired later this summer guided by the local Lekwungen people.

This comes after the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former residential school site in Kamloops last month.

Helps says “as First Nations mourn and in light of the challenging moment we are in as a Canadian nation,” council is taking time to explore new possibilities, instead of traditional celebrations.

However, not everyone is supportive of the decision.

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, who is a member of the Haisla Nation, says he’s disappointed, adding Canada Day should stay.

“If we want to do something in relation to, overall, in terms of Aboriginals and their experiences, maybe we can plan that. But it can be an inclusive event, where all those people who want to understand more and learn more about it, we can dedicate a day for that. Maybe it’s Aboriginal Day, I don’t know,” he explained.

“My parents — both of them — went to residential school in Alberni, but they went to Canada Day, they went to B.C. Day, it was a big part of our lives. My mother and dad made sure that we were there, we’d stake the place out on the side of the road for the parade,” Ross recalled. ‘

“What’s next? Is it B.C. Day? Because B.C. was just as complicit as Canada in terms of what happened to First Nations in the last 150 years.”

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Meanwhile, Sara Cadeau, who is an organizer with Idle No More, which is behind the Cancel Canada Day event, says there have been efforts to cancel usual July 1 celebrations for some time.

“This Canada Day, we will be replacing it with our own celebration, which will feature Indigenous speakers, leaders, artists, entertainers, poets, comedians, and dancers. And we are rejoicing in Cancel Canada Day as an anecdote to 500 years of colonialization and ongoing genocide tactics,” she told NEWS 1130.

Cadeau says plans include celebrations of Indigenous culture, adding “there’s a lot to celebrate because we are still here.”

She notes all Canadians who want to learn more about the country’s history are welcome to join, adding topics of today will also be covered.

Cadeau insists she and others who are calling for cancellations to Canada Day aren’t being divisive, stressing they are instead “uniting under the truth.”

“Just last year we had a bunch of white fisherman out in Nova Scotia burning down Indigenous fisherman’s boats, supplies — nobody said anything. Who was dividing Canada then? Who was dividing Canada when they made the MMIW report and didn’t do anything about it for another two years?” she said. “We’re not a divide-and-conquer people, that’s not our teachings.”

She is urging other Indigenous people, including those in politics, to show what they are doing to promote unity.

“I think what’s important is for Canada to understand what it’s still doing to Indigenous people,” Cadeau said.