Region moves forward with Canada Day celebrations, despite calls to cancel the holiday

· The Pulse
By Jackson Spring
in the Regional Roundup
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Fireworks, parades, and other Canada Day activities will be taking place in most Edmonton-area municipalities on July 1, despite a national movement to cancel the festivities.

In light of the discovery of unmarked burial sites near former residential schools in Kamloops and southeast Saskatchewan, 20 rallies are being organized across the country under the banner Cancel Canada Day.

Michelle Wells, an Indigenous woman helping to organize the rally in Edmonton, said the day should be reserved for honouring the lives lost to residential schools — not for celebrating.

"Everyone needs to take a step back and acknowledge that this happened in order to move forward as people," she told CityNews earlier this month.

Bob Smallboy, a residential school survivor, is organizing a convoy to honour those who died, which will make its way from Enoch Cree Nation to Ermineskin Cree Nation.

Victoria, Penticton, and a number of communities in the Yukon and New Brunswick have cancelled their Canada Day programming out of respect to Indigenous communities. Some events have also been cancelled in Kelowna and Toronto, though officials in both municipalities have suggested this is more to do with health precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the Edmonton-area, St. Albert is the only municipality to cancel or postpone its annual fireworks display. In previous years, the city's display was held at Mission Hill, the site of the former Youville Residential School.

Most Edmonton-area municipalities put on fireworks shows for Canada Day, while some also put on parades, concerts, and pancake breakfasts. (Courtesy of the City of Edmonton)

Most Edmonton-area municipalities put on fireworks shows for Canada Day, while some also put on parades, concerts, and pancake breakfasts. (Courtesy of the City of Edmonton)

A St. Albert press release from June 18 said the decision was made to "demonstrate empathy and respect for members of the community who have experienced, and who continue to experience the devastating effects of intergenerational trauma because of the residential school system."

The city issued another press release on June 19 clarifying that it was looking into holding the fireworks at a different location later this summer or in the fall.

Cory Sinclair, a spokesperson for the City of St. Albert, told Taproot that no official record exists documenting how long the fireworks display has been held at Mission Hill.

"Everyone told me they have been taking place there for as long as anyone can remember," he said.

Some municipalities are choosing to modify Canada Day celebrations. The City of Leduc is planning a moment of silence, while the Town of Devon is encouraging residents to wear orange — similarly to on Orange Shirt Day, which aims to raise awareness about residential schools more generally.

"As this upcoming Canada Day approaches, we harden our resolve to stand hand in hand with our Indigenous brothers and sisters and support them in their healing process," said Devon Mayor Ray Ralph in a June 23 press release.