Victoria cancels Canada Day celebrations as Mayor says they would be damaging to reconciliation efforts

The capital city of British Columbia has canceled Canada Day celebrations after the mayor and council concluded that the day would be detrimental to Victoria’s efforts for reconciliation.

Mayor Lisa Helps presented the city council earlier this week with a proposal that longtime Lequungen participants said they had discovered 215 unmarked graves at the site Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc by First Nation. Will not participate as usual after the announcement. Former residential school in Kamloops. He said that the chiefs of the Songi and Esquimalt supported that direction.

Unmarked graves of Kamloops residential school: what we know about the remains of children, and Canada’s response so far

“The history of our country’s genocidal relations with the First Nations has once again unfolded in a way that is painful for the Lekvungen people as well as the First Nations across the country,” the mayor wrote in a resolution presented to the council.

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The council unanimously agreed to do nothing for 1 July and instead hold an event until 6 September. Ms. Helps said federal funding is available until that time.

The city of Victoria had already canceled any outdoor events marking Canada Day in the context of pandemic restrictions. Like last year, the city planned a one-hour television program intended to be “Canada’s diverse, multicultural celebration” featuring local musicians and artists.

As always, members of the local First Nations community were expected to play a role. But given the events of Kamloops they will not participate.

Ms. Helps said city staff were considering ways to honor the 215 children whose remains were buried at the former Kamloops residential school.

“The more we reflect, the more we understand that holding normal Canada Day celebrations can be detrimental to city and community reconciliation efforts,” Mayor Helps wrote in the motion.

Instead, councilors voted to produce a one-hour broadcast that was intended for residential schools and an educational program to share the history of Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, as well as the indigenous history and stories of the Victoria region. equipment will be.

Mr MacDonald was the architect of the country’s residential school system and held a seat in the House of Commons representing Victoria from 1878 to 1882. In 2018, a statue of him was removed from in front of Victoria’s City Hall.

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Other cities have contended with MacDonald’s legacy, notably in Kingston, Ont. Where the former prime minister had close ties. Municipal leaders there have debated as of last week what to do with his statue, while McDonald monuments elsewhere have been subjected to vandalism.

Mayor Helps said she was not discouraging Canadians from celebrating July 1. Rather, he said that the capital city in BC had an obligation to do something different.

“We are using our leadership to focus more on reflection and less on celebration,” she said in an interview. “You can feel free to celebrate, but, as a city, we have a responsibility to show leadership.”

A spokesperson for the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations were not available for comment.

editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said that Mayor Lisa Helps presented the city council with a proposal on Thursday, which said that the indigenous communities of Songhai and Esquimalt had declared that they would take the occasion as usual. will not attend. In fact, the proposal mentions that it had long been said by Lekungen participants that they would not participate as usual.

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