Rallies, vigils scheduled in Quebec on Canada Day in solidarity with Indigenous communities
Community members ‘not in any, any mood to celebrate,’ says Ghislain Picard
In light of the recent discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential schools across the country, rallies and vigils are scheduled to be held in Montreal and Quebec City on Canada Day in solidarity with mourning Indigenous communities.
Since the unearthing of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at a former B.C. residential school last month, cities in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba have scrapped Canada Day activities as calls to do the same across Canada intensify.
With last week's revelation of 751 unmarked graves discovered at another former residential school in Saskatchewan, Ghislain Picard says he wouldn't understand anyone wanting to celebrate a country for what it represents at this point in time.
"I don't see any legitimacy in celebrating [Canada Day]," the chief for the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) told CBC Montreal. "We know that our peoples are not in any, any mood to celebrate on July 1."
Picard says he is not calling for a boycott of the national holiday — "We'll let our collective conscience speak to that" — but the AFNQL has instead organized a march and vigil in memory of the children who died or went missing at residential schools.
It will take place in Quebec City at Place Jean-Béliveau at 4 p.m. on July 1 at the site of the two-week KWÉ! Meet with Indigenous Peoples festival that runs from June 18 to July 4.
"The best action we can take is really calling on people to gather and offer their prayers and support to our sisters and brothers." He said support is crucial, and invites Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come out in solidarity.
In Montreal, a gathering of community members and allies to mourn, honour and demand accountability for the deaths of children at residential school is scheduled to take place on Canada Day.
Demand Justice for the 751 children! Bring your drums!!<br>Mtl Gathering and March<br>Thursday, July 1st, 2pm<br>Jeanne-Mance Park (Parc & Rachel)<br>We will march to Place du Canada (René-Lévesque & Peel) please share widely svp partagez dans vos réseaux)<br>(fb: <a href="https://t.co/2oYIVwHMQ4">https://t.co/2oYIVwHMQ4</a>) <a href="https://t.co/iInSS26lev">pic.twitter.com/iInSS26lev</a>—@NakusetS
Speakers, drumming and performances are set to begin at 2 p.m. at Jeanne-Mance Park followed by a march to Place du Canada, the site where a statue of John A. Macdonald stood before it was toppled last year.
The event is organized in part by Nakuset, the executive director of the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.
A convoy from Kanehsatake to Montreal to commemorate those lost to the residential school system is also planned for Canada Day at 10:30 a.m.
'Celebrating oppression and assimilation'
Meanwhile, many municipalities in the greater Montreal area, including Pierrefond-Roxboros, Côte St-Luc and Pointe Claire, are going ahead with scheduled Canada Day activities and events, but some will fly flags at half mast to honour the findings at the former residential schools.
Nakuset says continuing with revelries at this time is paradoxical to the healing and support Indigenous communities need.
"Anyone who celebrates Canada Day is basically celebrating oppression and assimilation of Indigenous people and stolen land," she said. A look at the hashtag #cancelcanadaday on social media show thousands of messages echoing this sentiment.
Nakuset says the rally is going to be sad, yet it is a way to tell the government that Indigenous communities want more reconciliation and more searches on former residential school grounds.
"People need to be held accountable and history has to be rewritten for what it actually is," she said.
With files from Kwabena Oduro