Some Indigenous community members opting out of Canada Day to raise awareness instead

As investigations are underway into the unmarked graves of former residential schools, some Indigenous groups near Windsor-Essex are choosing not to celebrate and are asking non-Indigenous Canadians to reflect instead.

Discovery at residential school prompts Windsor jewelry maker to launch fundraiser

'I thought this would be one way that I could contribute,' Kat Pasquach, Culture Shock jewelry owner

1 year ago
Duration 1:56
Kat Pasquach is an Indigenous jewelry maker that is giving 100 percent of proceeds from her jewelry listed on the Ujimaa website to Legacy of Hope. A project that seeks to raise awareness about residential schools and the Sixties Scoop.

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

In light of recent discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves on the properties of former residential schools in Kamloops, B.C., and southeast Saskatchewan, some Indigenous groups and community members are calling for Canadians to reflect on Canada Day instead of celebrating. 

Several municipalities in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have opted out of Canada Day celebrations. Just outside of Sarnia, Walpole Island First Nation will not be observing Canada Day this year. All operations will be closed and July 2 will be considered a day of mourning. 

Windsor jewelry maker Kat Pasquach, who is Cree First Nation from the James Bay region, said she respects anyone who chooses to take a stance against celebrating but asks those who choose to celebrate to ask themselves what they are celebrating and why. 

In response to the discovery of the remains of an estimated 215 children at Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C., Pasquach has decided to donate the proceeds of her jewelry sales on Ujimaa, an online marketplace featuring products created by BIPOC and women-owned businesses. 

The money raised will go toward the Legacy of Hope foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to educating and raising awareness about the residential school system. 

Kat Pasquash is donating 100 per cent of her sales from jewelry sold on Ujjima to the Legacy of Hope foundation. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"Given that the findings happened during Indigenous History Month, leading up to Canada Day, I think a lot of people are finally looking inward and trying to understand their relationship in the founding of this country," said Pasquach, who owns Culture Shock Jewelry in Windsor.

She said the public response has been fantastic.

"Not only are we raising funds through the sales, but we've got a direct link for people to donate directly and we've had a lot of people respond to that." 

'No pride in genocide'

On July 1, Idle No More and MMIWG2S Takes Back Canada are planning a rally with the intention to march to NDP Windsor West MP Brian Masse's office. 

The poster for that event reads "no pride in genocide." 

Winona Kuwayatakenhas Hopkins, from Delaware Nation at Moraviantown reserve, outside of Chatham, hopes to take part in the rally.

Hopkins encourages Canadians to take the time and learn more about Canadian history on Canada Day. 

"Why do you celebrate Canada Day? Why do you celebrate a day on the calendar and then, you know, hopefully, spark a little idea and then hopefully a conversation within the household, within the family," said Hopkins.

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

With files by Jacob Barker