More Canada Day festivities cancelled in B.C. following residential school discovery
VANCOUVER -- With Canada Day just over a week away, two more B.C. municipalities have opted to cancel their festivities following the discovery of more than 200 children's remains at a former residential school.
On Friday, Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki issued a statement saying the city was "not able to offer Canada Day activities that we consider appropriate," especially with COVID-19 measures still in place.
"Out of respect for Indigenous communities across Canada who are grieving, it is important to Penticton city council that this year’s Canada Day activities honour the history, culture and traditions of Indigenous people," he said, saying "time constraints" were also an issue.
"We encourage you to spend the day with your family and take time to reflect on Canada’s history and consider what we can each do to work towards an inclusive community."
And on Monday, the District of Port Hardy made a similar announcement.
"In light of the findings from Tk'emlúps te Secwepemc, Kamloops Residential School the District Council has decided not to hold an official Canada Day this year," the northwestern Vancouver Island municipality wrote.
"We encourage you to reflect and remember in your own way with your loved ones."
They aren't the first municipalities in the province to change their Canada Day plans.
A couple weeks ago, Victoria announced it's no longer hosting the virtual Canada Day celebration it had planned. Instead, it'll create a broadcast later in the summer with guidance from local Lekwungen people.
The city says the broadcast will be released later in the summer and will consider "what it means to be Canadian."
"Context changed when those 215 children's bodies were discovered and they (the Lekwungen Nation) are reeling and everybody is reeling," said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps earlier this month. "We're all just doing our best to figure out how to move forward."
But following that announcement, B.C.'s premier suggested other Canada Day festivities should still go ahead.
"The intent, I can understand," Premier John Horgan said the day after Victoria's decision. "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."
In Kelowna, Canada Day festivities have also been cancelled but organizers suggest the decision is primarily because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Festivals Kelowna posted a notice last Thursday saying its event, which typically attracts 65,000 guests, "requires a longer lead time than is currently available to us."
"After such a tough year for our local restaurants, breweries, and wineries, we believe Canada Day presents a great opportunity for them to shine and welcome guests to their venues," Festivals Kelowna organizers said.
The earliest more restrictions will be lifted in B.C. is July 1.