Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations backs cancelling Canada Day celebration

VICTORIA — City council in Victoria has voted unanimously to cancel a planned Canada Day broadcast in order to permit a "thoughtful reflection" of what it means to be Canadian.

A statement from the City of Victoria says council voted to scrap the virtual celebration following the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 students buried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

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The city said it will be guided by members of the local First Nation and will replace the broadcast with one that features Indigenous artists, which is scheduled to be broadcast later this summer.

Mayor Lisa Helps said Canada, as a nation, is in a "challenging moment."

The city's broadcast has been cancelled as council takes time to "explore new possibilities," she said in a statement.

"While everyone will mark Canada Day in their own way on July 1, now is a time where the city can take leadership and provide an opportunity for thoughtful reflection and examination of what it means to be Canadian in light of recent events and what we already know from our past," it said.

David Pratt, vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said it would be a "really good idea" to cancel Canada Day celebrations. The federation represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.

"Because, I'm telling you, Indigenous people are really hurting, young and old alike," he told a news conference.

"A lot of people are really hurting right now, and I think it would be appropriate."

Cancelling Canada Day celebrations would go a long way in recognizing the pain and suffering of Indigenous people, especially after the discovery of the remains of the 215 children, he said.

"We're collectively mourning right now and in grief, and a lot of old wounds have been dug up and reopened because of this."

A number of Indigenous communities have released statements saying they won't celebrate Canada Day, he said.

"It will, in fact, be a day of mourning for their community," Pratt said.

"And I think we'll probably see more of that. I don't think that you'll see too many Indigenous people waving the flags around on July 1."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2021.

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