Calls to 'Cancel Canada Day' draw mixed reaction

CBC News asked people in many parts of the country whether they will be celebrating Canada Day and whether they support the cancellation of events in light of the findings of potential unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C. and the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.

Findings of potential unmarked graves at former residential schools has led to debate

Hand holding a large Canada flag.
CBC News asked people in many parts of the country whether they will be celebrating Canada Day and whether they support the cancellation of events in light of the findings at the former Kamloops and Marieval residential schools. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Findings at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia that indicate the remains of an estimated 215 children could be buried at the site prompted some to call for the cancellation of Canada Day celebrations this year.

Shortly after those revelations, #cancelcanadaday began trending on social media. Meanwhile, some communities across the country, including in Victoria, announced they weren't going ahead with planned events for July 1.

And now, with revelations of potentially hundreds of unmarked graves at the Marieval Indian Residential School at Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, such calls will likely grow stronger.

CBC News asked people in many parts of the country whether they will be celebrating Canada Day and whether they support the cancellation of events in light of the findings at the former Kamloops and Marieval residential schools.

Don Amero

A man in a T-shirt poses outside on a sunny day.
(Karen Pauls/CBC)

Country and folk singer-songwriter, Winnipeg

"I think my own belief is that Canada Day is a thing in terms of how we approach it. I think that's where we really need to kind of take a deeper look at it. I think to spend millions of dollars in celebration, not sure if that's what we should be doing as a country now. I think maybe [we should spend] time to reflect and to really educate ourselves.

"It is an opportunity for every individual, every Canadian, to say, 'Where do I fit in this story?' And I think if you're here and you're in this country, you're a piece of this story. And I think that you really need to educate yourself. You can be complicit, you can be ignorant or you can educate yourself. My hope is that what we do this Canada Day is we spend more time educating ourselves on our history and who we were, who we are now and who we want to be in the future."

Lynn-Marie Angus

(Submitted by Lynn-Marie Angus)

Co-founder of B.C-based Sisters Sage, an Indigenous brand that hand-crafts wellness and self-care products, member of Gitxaala, Nisga'a and Métis Nations

"Honestly I never celebrate Canada Day. I haven't since I think I was old enough to realize what Canada stood for, what Canada Day is. I'm Indigenous, so I've been brought up in a culture of racism. This is just something that's normal. It's normalized, unfortunately. But this is something that I deal with day to day  It's really difficult right now for Indigenous folks. So we're all really suffering and traumatized and dealing with this very publicly through social media.

"There's a saying that people are saying now: There's no pride in genocide. And that's so true. So it's hard to be proud to be Canadian. I'm proud to be an indigenous person. Our existence Is our resistance. We are still here."

Scott Clark

Portrait of an Indigenous man with short grey-black hair, in front of a colourful mural.
Scott Clark, president of the Northwest Indigenous Council. (Wawmeesh Hamilton/Facecbook)

Executive director, Vancouver ALIVE, director of the Northwest Indigenous Council Society

"I've never been a supporter of [Canada Day], recognizing the ongoing process Canada is doing to our people. But [calls to cancel Canada Day] are starting to shed light on the history of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous people. I would say that if anything [cancelling] is going to bring light to the historical and the contemporary relations between the Indigenous people, I would support that.

"I think [that] the uncovering of the the unmarked graves ... for some reason, this has taken off with the Canadian public. I think they're empathetic. I think  they're shocked.

"I do not identify as a Canadian citizen. That's been imposed upon myself at birth.  And that's a result of the Canada Indian Act. So this is why I say there's a lot of unfinished business that Canada has yet to do. So I don't consider myself a Canadian, let alone a proud Canadian."

Parry Stelter

(Submitted by Parry Stelter)

President, founder of Word of Hope Ministries, originally from Alexander First Nation-Treaty Six Territory in Edmonton, Sixties Scoop survivor

"I feel that this Canada Day should not be cancelled. We should be standing at attention ... but standing at fully acknowledging the full history of Canada and all its atrocities and the genocide and the residential schools.

"I think it's a matter of changing your total perspective on the whole celebration, because many people go straight to 'Why would I want to celebrate the past? Why would I?' So now it's a matter of changing perspective and saying, as I celebrate Canada Day, I'm not going to celebrate it for what it has been in the past. I'm going to celebrate it for what I want it to be in the future.

"The fact of the matter is that we still all live here. And so we have to make the most of it and move forward and not just be resilient and not just survive, but learn how to thrive in our lives. But I totally understand if my people or anybody else don't want to celebrate. I totally understand because we all grieve in different ways."

Aziza Mohammed

(Submitted by Aziza Mohammed)

Consultant for the World Bank, Toronto

"I don't think it should be cancelled. I realize we've had some very troubling revelations, but the way forward is not to stop aspiring to be a better country, and it's not to try and erase the existence of a country or erase history. It's about acknowledging it and and trying to do something better.

"While acknowledging the pain of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, there's lots of suffering throughout Canada's history and even today. I'm a  Muslim woman, I'm a racialized person. We have our places of worship burned down, vandalized with swastikas. I've been driven out of the first home I bought, which was in a small town in Canada, because the racist locals made my life so unbearable, I had to flee.

"There's  a lot for me personally to be upset about when it comes to our country, our history and fellow Canadians. But I still want to look forward. I still want to be positive.... Life here can't just be suffering. It's also a little bit of community and fellowship and joy. That's worth celebrating to me."

Jonathan Resendes

Teacher, Brampton, Ont.

"I don't think that it should be cancelled completely. I think that we definitely need to be having conversations about what we are celebrating and what type of ideals Canada is striving towards and recognizing the failures that we've had in essentially trying to achieve those ideals, but also recognizing the success and progress that we have made towards that stuff as well.

"My family came here as immigrants, as we all are immigrants, and they came here in order to have a better life. And I think that Canada has provided a lot of opportunity to many people here. Now, mind you, that has been at the expense of other people. And that's part of our history we need to acknowledge as well."

"I think that Canada Day is is an opportunity for people to heal together, to come together and say, 'Listen, OK, this great nation of ours is not living up to this ideal. How can we come up and live up to this ideal? What can we actually do?' I mean, Canada Day is supposed to celebrate everybody as an equal Canadian. And what better opportunity is there to have the discussions about having equality and fairness and opportunity, and what better opportunity than Canada Day to have those conversations."

With files from Karen Pauls