Editorial: Cancelling Canada Day sends the wrong message

Victoria city council has voted unanimously to cancel its Canada Day broadcast in order to permit a “thoughtful reflection” on what it means to be Canadian.

The decision was made as a gesture of reconciliation toward Indigenous Canadians following the discovery of 215 unmarked child graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

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We respect council’s intent, but we take issue with cancelling the broadcast.

First, however, a statement as to where the Times Colonist stands on this dreadful discovery.

In a strongly worded editorial two weeks ago, we wrote that the revelation had “shocked the nation.” And we condemned both the federal government, and the Catholic Church that ran the Kamloops school, for their refusal over more than 20 years to open up their files.

We noted that a trial before the International Criminal Court in the Hague might very well occur, with our government in the dock accused of crimes against humanity.

There should be no question where we stand on this matter.

However, cancelling the celebration does not permit a “thoughtful reflection” on what it means to be Canadian. It announces the conclusion this reflection should reach.

We are to allow a series of dreadful events, committed many years ago, in some cases more than a century ago, to alter how we think of ourselves.

We are to say in effect, that our country is forever tainted, and that we as its citizens bear all of that stain.

This is the wrong way to voice our shock and horror at what happened at Kamloops.

The purpose of Canada Day is to affirm everything good and decent about our country. It is a means of unifying our population around a set of ideals we all aspire to. It is to celebrate hope and optimism.

If we give up on those values, what do we have in their place? Anger and blame are no recipe for bringing a community together.

No nation on Earth has a spotless record. None is without fault, and often egregious fault.

But for countries to survive, a sense of solidarity and community spirit is necessary. When those values are lost, so too is the country.

We see an example of this south of the border, where the United States is no longer united, but rather sundered into warring factions.

In the sixth annual Best Countries report, released in April by a consortium of American think-tanks, Canada ranked first out of 78 nations.

We are seen as well-intentioned, peace-loving, competently governed, a nation of immigrants among whom there is a sense of civic pride and mutual acceptance. We have resisted, in the main, the politics of division and exclusion, of calumny and aggression.

Perhaps this sounds like jingoism, that we are a faultless people who can do no wrong.

On the contrary, when the Kamloops discoveries were made known, there was an instantaneous upwelling of shame and outrage. We did not spare ourselves the full measure of shock and remorse.

No one would dispute that means should be found of displaying those sentiments.

And indeed, country-wide, numerous formal occasions were organized to reach out to the Indigenous community and to offer support.

Moreover, the RCMP have opened an investigation into the Kamloops horror. If anyone alive today had a hand in concealing the graves of those children, it is possible that criminal charges will be laid.

In short, we owe it to Indigenous Canadians to take the severest possible view of these dreadful events.

But cancelling a Canada Day celebration is not the right way to do it. This is the one time in the year when we must pull together and rededicate ourselves to the founding principles that bind our communities together.

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