The list of Sask. communities cancelling, postponing Canada Day continues to grow

Melville, Wahpeton Dakota Nation, Meadow Lake and Flying Dust First Nation have joined the list of Saskatchewan communities cancelling or postponing Canada Day. 

Additions include Melville, Wahpeton Dakota Nation, Meadow Lake

Curtis Standing (centre) says the Wahpeton Dakota Nation will not be celebrating Canada Day this year. Instead, they will be celebrating the survival of their people with a possible mini powow, feast and games. (Lois Standing/Facebook)

Melville, Wahpeton Dakota Nation, Meadow Lake and Flying Dust First Nation have joined the list of Saskatchewan communities cancelling Canada Day. 

The decisions follow the preliminary discovery of 751 unmarked graves for Indigenous children and adults who died at the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Cowessess First Nation, Sask.

The finding comes after a discovery at the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia,. which announced the discovery of a burial site adjacent to the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Preliminary findings indicate the site contains the remains of 215 children.

The northern tri-communities of La Ronge, the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and the Village of Air Ronge have previously announced they would not be celebrating the national holiday. 

In a Facebook post on Thursday, the Meadow Lake & District Chamber of Commerce announced there will not be a local Canada Day celebration on July 1. The nearby Flying Dust First Nation, which also cancelled the day, is welcoming guests to join them for a mini powwow on July 2 at the Flying Dust arbour.

The Meadow Lake chamber says the decision to cancel Canada Day was made in order to recognize the tragedies that occurred at residential schools and out of respect for all Indigenous people.

Previously planned Canada Day festivities in Meadow Lake have been postponed until July 8.

Melville announced its decision to postpone its Canada Day parade and fireworks on Saturday.

"There is a dark cloud that hangs over our country as unmarked graves continue to be discovered across the nation, and we must be mindful of those affected," the the City of Melville said in a news release. 

The city council is encouraging the community to place a candle in their front window or front step, or hang an orange shirt in their window in support of residential school survivors. 

In another development, a Moose Jaw resident has started a petition for the city and the Moose Jaw Kinsmen Canada festivities to either postpone or cancel the July 1 events. 

Hand holding a large Canada flag.
The discoveries of potential unmarked graves at former residential schools have sparked calls for the cancellation of Canada Day festivities on July 1. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

'Celebrating our survival as a people'

The Wahpeton Dakota Nation, located 10 kilometres north of Prince Albert, says the decision to cancel Canada Day was not a difficult one.

"We're not celebrating out of mourning for the number of bodies that have been found across Canada and the ones that might be coming up. So we're just preparing ourselves for more news and what happens here in the future too … we want to make sure that we acknowledge it and we don't minimize what has happened," said Wahpeton Coun. Curtis Standing. 

"We're going to be celebrating our survival as a people."

Standing says on July 1, the community will focus on acknowledging those who died, and those who have experienced the trauma of residential schools. 

"We want to do some activities that maybe some of the kids that didn't make it would have been doing back here, like gunny sack races and other traditional games," Standing said.

Other plans in the works include a possible mini powwow, a ball tournament and a traditional feast, according to Standing. 

Wahpeton will also honour its veterans. 

"They stood beside Canada, and it's very important that we understand that … we have veterans who had to defend these lands for many generations."

Standing says the community is currently focusing on taking care of itself in this difficult time: "Sometimes we need to take a break and just rebuild ourselves as a people."

Standing says cancelling Canada Day is up to each individual community. 

"I think that every community is different and they got to come to terms with how they're going to deal with things … All we've got to do is take care of ourselves, learn from each other and support that Canada steps forward at this time."

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by these reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.


Laura Sciarpelletti

Journalist & Radio Columnist

Laura is a journalist for CBC Saskatchewan. She is also the community reporter for CBC's virtual road trip series Land of Living Stories and host of the arts and culture radio column Queen City Scene Setter, which airs on CBC's The Morning Edition. Laura previously worked for CBC Vancouver. Some of her former work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, NYLON Magazine, VICE Canada and The Tyee. Laura specializes in human interest, arts and health care coverage. She holds a master of journalism degree from the University of British Columbia. Send Laura news tips at