Usually the biggest celebration is centered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where a large concert stage is normally erected and a day and evening of musical performances are crowned with fireworks.
The remains of what are believed to be Indigenous children have been found at the sites of former residential schools in Canada. Here’s what you need to know:
- Background: Around 1883, Aboriginal children in many parts of Canada were forced to attend residential schools as part of a program of forced assimilation. Most of these schools were run by churches and all prohibited the use of indigenous languages and cultural practices, often through violence. Illnesses, as well as sexual, physical and emotional abuse were widespread. An estimated 150,000 children passed through schools between their opening and closing in 1996.
- Missing children: A National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up as part of the government’s apology and regulation for schools, found that at least 4,100 students died while attending them, much from abuse or neglect, others from illness or accident. In many cases, families never learned of the fate of their offspring, now known as “missing children”.
- Discoveries : In May, members of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation found 215 bodies at the Kamloops school – which was operated by the Roman Catholic Church until 1969 – after using ground penetrating radar. In June, an Indigenous group said the remains of 751 people, mostly children, were found in anonymous graves at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan.
- Cultural genocide ‘: In a 2015 report, the commission concluded that the system was a form of “cultural genocide”. Murray Sinclair, a former judge and senator who headed the commission, recently said he now believed the number of missing children was “well over 10,000”.
- Apologies and next steps: The commission asked for an apology from the Pope for the role of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis stopped by before one, but the Archbishop of Vancouver apologized on behalf of his archdiocese. Canada has officially apologized and offered financial and other support for the research, but Indigenous leaders believe the government still has a long way to go.
Steven Guilbeault, the federal minister whose ministry is hosting the celebrations in the capital, said in an email that the virtual celebrations would take place. But he added that the government would focus its attention on commemorating residential school students on September 30, which a recently passed law made a public holiday, National Truth and Reconciliation Day.
“We recognize that for many, Canada Day is not an occasion to celebrate,” wrote Mr. Guilbeault. “It has been a deeply moving and traumatic time for Indigenous communities across the country. “
Outside the capital, celebrations are usually organized by local governments or volunteer committees.
Several of them have now canceled their plans out of respect for the indigenous communities.
“I recognize that the Indigenous community has suffered and continues to suffer and cry,” said Angie Hallman, one of the Canada Day organizers in the rural community of Wilmont Township, Ontario, in an online article. announcing his group’s plan to cancel all celebrations, in person and virtually, in support of Indigenous peoples. “We stop, sit and cry in silence with them. “
Some local governments in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have also canceled the celebrations.
Last week, Erin O’Toole, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, slammed towns and villages for canceling the celebrations.