B.C. premier advises against cancelling Canada Day festivities
Published Friday, June 11, 2021 6:33PM PDT Last Updated Friday, June 11, 2021 6:47PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- A day after Victoria cancelled its Canada Day celebrations, B.C. Premier John Horgan says he does not want other cities to follow suit.
“The intent, I can understand,” says Horgan. “The 21st of June, National Indigenous Peoples’ Day, would be a more appropriate time for us to collectively focus on how we can redress the wrongs of the past, and build a brighter future together.”
Victoria city council voted unanimously this week to abandon virtual Canada Day festivities, following the discovery of children's bodies on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops. Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says local indigenous groups have since pulled out of participating in this year’s Canada Day events.
“Right now, the Lekwungen nations are grieving, so it’s very difficult for them to come and sing and dance and celebrate," Helps told reporters.
CTV News has reached out to multiple cities across Metro Vancouver to see whether their Canada Day plans will be cancelled or modified in any way. So far, the City of Surrey has replied, saying their virtual event will go ahead as planned. Details of the event could not be offered yet, but a spokesperson says they’ve planned the event with the help of a First Nations consultant and this year’s headliner will be Indigenous.
The Port of Vancouver operates the large-scale annual Canada Day celebration at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver, and says it will have an update on this year’s event soon.
“Following the devastating discovery of the remains of more than 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Residential School, we are reviewing our July 1 programming to determine the best way forward,” the Port of Vancouver says in an emailed statement to CTV News.
“I don’t believe we’re at a part where we can be celebrating,” explains Dakota Bear, a Vancouver-based Indigenous rights activist with Idle No More, a group promoting the #CancelCanadaDay campaign on social media.
Bear is helping arrange multiple rallies across the country for July 1, including in downtown Vancouver. The aim is to highlight injustice and inequality faced by Canada’s Indigenous communities, rather than marking confederation.
“We’re going through so much. We don’t have proper infrastructure for water, missing and murdered women and girls, the lack of proper shelter in our communities.”
But as chatter of cancelling Canada Day continues online, it’s not a sentiment held by all Indigenous peoples. Liberal MLA Ellis Ross shared his thoughts on Twitter, saying “Don’t cancel Canada Day. Can you imagine how significant it would be for First Nations and non-First Nations to be together on this day? We need this as part of our collective healing.”
Musqueam Indian Band member Wade Grant echoes those sentiments, saying “Cancelling Canada Day will further divide us. Let’s use the day to educate about the mistakes of the past and commit to making Canada better.”
Back in Victoria, council plans to collaborate with local indigenous groups later in the summer to produce a one-hour broadcast on what it means to be Canadian.