Anya Zoledziowski, Vice, June 11, 2021
A major Canadian city and at least one First Nation have formally cancelled Canada Day because they don’t want to honour “attempted genocide” against Indigenous peoples.
The decision follows Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation’s discovery of 215 undocumented children, including some as young as 3, buried under a former Catholic-run residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. There are likely many more sites like it across the country.
“The history of our country’s genocidal relationship with First Nations has been once again revealed in a way that is painful,” Victoria mayor Lisa Helps wrote in a motion, following consultations with Indigenous leaders. “The more we reflect, the more we understand that holding the usual Canada Day celebrations could be damaging to the city’s and the community’s reconciliation efforts.”
Canada Day is a national holiday that commemorates the country’s confederation, or birthday. It’s basically our July 4th. But it’s repeatedly been criticized for glossing over the fact that Canada, as a settler-colonial country, exists because it oppressed Indigenous communities.
Victoria city council announced Thursday it voted unanimously to cancel its planned virtual celebration. The city will instead hold an event in September to highlight Indigenous stories and histories.
Keewaywin First Nation in Ontario also declared on Thursday that it will no longer recognize Canada’s birthday.
According to the statement, July 1 will be used to pay tribute to residential school student and their families and to “acknowledge the role the Canadian government and the churches played in the attempted genocide of Indigenous people.”
Instead of Canada Day, Idle No More, an ongoing Indigenous justice movement, has announced several rallies taking place across the country to honour “all of the lives lost to the Canadian State—Indigenous lives, Black Lives, Migrant lives, Women and Trans and Two Spirit lives—all of the relatives that we have lost.”
“We refuse to sit idle while Canada’s violent history is celebrated,” Idle No More’s site says.