Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

VICTORIA — Premier John Horgan is marking National Indigenous Peoples Day by celebrating First Nation communities while recognizing systemic racism continues to be a reality for them.

A statement from Horgan and Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Murray Rankin says they honour the leadership, resilience and strength of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

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But the statement says B.C. must also recognize the "systemic racism, discrimination and intergenerational trauma Indigenous Peoples have experienced and continue to experience."

A release from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs says it's time Canada admitted accountability for past wrongs.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says Indigenous Peoples Day comes during grieving after it was announced that 215 unmarked graves were found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, and the "pain, trauma and hurt that continues to be inflicted by practices of colonialism."

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996 and as a statutory territorial holiday in the Northwest Territories since 2001 and in Yukon since 2017.

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki says his city is the latest to call off Canada Day celebrations in order to mourn the Kamloops discovery.

"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," Vassilaki says in a recent statement.

Time constraints and pandemic restrictions prevent planning for more appropriate events, the mayor says.

He advises residents to use the day to reflect on Canada's history and seek ways to create inclusive communities.

Victoria city council voted unanimously earlier this month to cancel a planned Canada Day broadcast and instead "explore what it means to be Canadian, in light of recent events."

The chamber of commerce in Port Hardy also recently announced it had scrubbed Canada Day events, saying celebrations would not be "appropriate or respectful" while the investigation in Kamloops continues.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2021.

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