Canada Day celebrations changed in light of unmarked grave discoveries

June 30, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Orangeville’s Canada Day celebrations are going to look much different this year, following the discovery of 715 unmarked graves near a former residential school in Saskatchewan and the remains of 215 children in British Colombia.

In light of the unsettling reports of the mass unmarked graves, Mayor Sandy Brown put forward a notice of motion to light up the Town Hall orange instead of red and white from June 30 to July 2, which saw unanimous support during Council’s Monday night meeting.

Alder Recreation Centre’s façade will also be turned orange.

“The Alder Street Complex has been the home of a lot of Indigenous ceremonies. It’s the home of a permanent placement of the Indigenous flag, and also the home of the Indigenous Medicine Wheel, so it’s really a building that that has some tradition with respect to celebrating indigenous culture,” noted Mayor Brown.

The Eagle Heart Singers, which is an Indigenous drum group are also being hired for a performance on the evening of June 30 that will be broadcasted over the Town’s YouTube page on July 1, to commemorate Canada Day. The total cost for the changes to July 1 is anticipated to be between $3,000 and $6,000.

Mayor Brown noted that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report states that all levels of government need to support Indigenous communities, their heritage, and culture.

“It’s hard to grasp what is going on with respect to the residential schools and what’s been found but I think we need to support our indigenous community, I think we need to show some symbolism, and… I think it’s important that we do take this step and have an immediate recognition of what’s going on,” said Mayor Brown.

Following Mayor Brown’s pitch of the renewed Canada Day activities, Coun. Lisa Post quickly voiced her support and seconded his motion.

“I just want to say that I think this is an absolutely beautiful idea. I think it’s a lovely tribute. Especially, I think that so many Canadians right now are struggling with how to celebrate Canada Day because it definitely feels a little different this year, with some of the discoveries that have been made,” she remarked. “I think this is a great first step into some Truth and Reconciliation work from our municipality and I think it’s a wonderful initiative, so thank you for bringing it forward.”

Meanwhile, some municipalities in Ontario, such as Bruce Peninsula, Wilmot Township, and Belleville have cancelled all activities, events, and celebrations for Canada Day out of respect for Indigenous people.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said in a speech delivered to his caucus late last week that he opposes the push to cancel Canada Day celebrations, and that while the discoveries are “dreadful” and something “we should all be concerned about”, it shouldn’t detract from Canada Day.

Dufferin–Caledon MP Kyle Seeback, who represents the Conservative Party, said he too doesn’t believe cancelling Canada Day is an appropriate response to the dark past of residential schools.

“I won’t tell other municipalities what they should or should not do. My view is it’s a great opportunity to celebrate our country because this is a wonderful country, but also maybe this Canada Day, we should take some time to reflect on the real horrors of residential schools,” he remarked.

“I think for a long time, Canadians thought that the residential schools were just something bad that happened, but now we’re learning that in fact, they were monstrous. These were monstrous institutions that ended up killing thousands of indigenous children and we should become more aware of that, and find ways to further work on reconciliation with indigenous communities.”

Seeback told the Citizen there’s no reason why Canadians can’t celebrate their country and be proud of it while also taking the time to reflect on the residential school system.

He said that the country’s dark past should be used as motivation to further work on reconciliation with Indigenous communities.

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.