Victoria City council has decided to cancel its scheduled Canada Day programming this year following the discovery of what are believed to be the unmarked burial sites of children’s remains near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Originally, the city had planned virtual programming to mark the day due to COVID-19 pandemic gathering restrictions. Instead, the city said it will produce something for broadcast later this summer featuring local artists, and guided by local First Nations.
“As First Nations mourn and in light of the challenging moment we are in as a Canadian nation following the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school, the council has decided to take the time to explore new possibilities, instead of the previously planned virtual Canada Day broadcast,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said in a media statement.
In an interview on CBC’s On the Island Thursday morning before the council decides to cancel scheduled programming, Helps said that last Friday she spoke with local Indigenous individuals who generally participate in Canada Day celebrations, but who said they didn’t feel they could do so this year.
“They didn’t feel comfortable participating this year because they’re grief-struck and reeling, as are many Indigenous people across the country,” Helps said Thursday morning.
Keewaywin First Nation in northern Ontario will no longer recognize Canada Day as a celebration and will instead mark it as a “day of mourning” until the federal government investigates the grounds of all former residential schools.
Moving forward, the nation said July 1 will be a day to remember the children and families who were affected by residential schools and to recognize the role that the Canadian government and churches played in the “attempted genocide” of Indigenous People.
Meanwhile, the annual Canada Day event in Ottawa will be virtual for the second year in a row amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the government department in charge of the annual event confirmed Friday.
Typical years see crowds of Canadians and tourists to the nation’s capital flood Parliament Hill for performances and special guests on July 1.
In addition to ongoing restorative work to Parliament’s Centre Block which has restricted access to the lawn, the COVID-19 pandemic has again necessitated that any festivities must take place largely in the comfort of Canadians’ homes.
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