Creating a better future for Canada requires confronting the "dark truths" of the country's colonial history, B.C. Premier John Horgan said Friday.

In his official Canada Day message, Horgan called on British Columbians to reflect on the nation's past while gathering for the first community events marking the national holiday since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"People from all over the world come to Canada in search of a better life for themselves and their families. But there is a lot more we need to do to break down barriers and end systemic discrimination that is a lived reality for many," Horgan said.

"Central to that work is confronting the dark truths of our colonial history so that we can move forward through reconciliation and partnership with Indigenous Peoples, many of whom have been on this land since time immemorial."

The country is at its best when citizens take care of each other, the premier added, pointing to Canada's public health-care system.

He acknowledged the pandemic has "exposed underlying gaps and added additional strains" to that system, alluding to Horgan and other premiers' ongoing fight for more federal help.

He also noted the increasingly urgent need to address a "rapidly changing climate," which puts the farmland and natural resources cherished by Canadians at risk.

"If we act now with the urgency required, we can reduce the most severe effects and become a global leader in the emerging clean energy economy," Horgan said.

"Over the past few years, we have shown how much we can accomplish if we reject division and work together in common purpose. That's why I have never been more optimistic about our future than I am right now. Together, I know we will continue to build a stronger and more inclusive Canada - where everyone feels like they belong and no one gets left behind."

The premier's message comes just days after he announced plans to step down from his role, citing his own flagging energy since his latest bout with cancer, which required 35 rounds of radiation.

Horgan said he will remain on the job until the NDP can choose his successor at a leadership convention, which he asked the party to hold this fall.