Why some Sask. people don’t celebrate canada on july 1st

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details

Some people in Saskatchewan are changing the way they celebrate July 1, shifting the focus from an uncritical celebration of Canada to an occasion for reflection, truth and reconciliation.

« Canada Day celebrates 155 years of genocide and colonial violence, » said Ezra Forest (they/them). The 24-year-old Cree, from Treaty 6 territory, helped organize a Cancel Canada Day rally on Friday in Saskatoon.

« It’s really important to cancel, because there are those before us and those after us who need to be honored and respected in indigenous communities, » said Forest, who is the Wâpahki program coordinator with Chokecherry studios. , a Saskatoon non-profit offering arts-based programs and mentorship to young artists in downtown Saskatoon.

“We do this for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, two-spirit, and those impacted by residential schools.

Ezra Forest is the Wâpahki program coordinator at Chokecherry Studios in Saskatoon and led the organization of Cancel Canada Day in Saskatoon. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

Saskatchewan Poet Laureate Carol Rose GoldenEagle said she felt extremely conflicted about taking part in Canada Day celebrations.

These feelings grew about a year ago after Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme announced to the world that radar technology had identified 751 potential unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School, about 140 kilometers east of Regina.

« I was so hurt, heartbroken by the news and all the number of kids who never came home that I thought I couldn’t celebrate Canada Day, » GoldenEagle said. « I decided that I was not boycotting Canada, but making a statement about the dark history of the treatment of Indigenous people in this country. »

Carol GoldenEagle said people need to honor the children who were never able to return home, « and then move forward so that this kind of crime never happens again in this country. » (Matt Howard/CBC Saskatchewan)

But then the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Center approached her and asked her to participate with their float. Reflecting on the matter, she recognized that the center was doing a lot of work towards reconciliation and felt it made sense to try to move forward with art and culture.

« I think everyone needs to be aware of what happened and say okay you know what I’m going to score one way or another because I think it’s important for us. to celebrate but also to reflect and acknowledge, » she said.

« We must honor these children and then move forward to ensure that this type of crime never happens again in this country. »

From rah-rah to reflection

For decades, the public’s approach to Canada Day celebrations has been relatively consistent, said Raymond Blake, a professor in the University of Regina’s history department. His recent research has explored identity, citizenship and how these notions have changed over the past decades.

« It was our kind of rah-rah day, let’s go out and celebrate one of the best nations in the world, and what we’ve achieved as a people. »

However, Blake said the uncritical enthusiasm noticeably began to wane about five to seven years ago as the 150th anniversary of Confederation approached.

Spiritual pain, collective traumas are certainly difficult to live with, but what is more difficult to live with is that they go unnoticed and untreated.– Ezra Forest

Blake said the shift came with growing social awareness of the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Many residential school children were physically, sexually or psychologically abused in a system described by the TRC in its 2015 report as cultural genocide, part of a collective and calculated effort to eradicate Indigenous language and culture.

Social awareness has grown in the past year as unmarked graves at Canadian residential schools have come under international scrutiny. Hundreds of potential burial sites have since been identified and searches are underway at sites across Canada.

artwork hangs in chokecherry studio
The artwork is on display at Chokecherry Studios, a youth-founded non-profit organization that provides arts-focused programs and mentorship to emerging young artists in downtown Saskatoon, Treaty 6 territory and the homeland of the Métis. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

Blake said public polls in 2021 showed many people in Canada still want to celebrate or mark July 1 in some way, but there’s a growing desire to go beyond that. a celebration fueled by fireworks.

« The vast majority of Canadians are pretty happy celebrating Canada Day, but that doesn’t mean we’re sweeping under the rug, so to speak, the parts of the story that we need to acknowledge, » he said. . « The brutality of the state was something that is simply unforgivable. »

« I want to be united »

The Cancel Canada Day in Saskatoon rally begins at 3 p.m. CST Friday at Kiwanis Memorial Park. It will begin with an opening prayer, then feature a series of talks, a smudge walk, a community art installation and a round dance.

Forest said preparing for the July 1 event was difficult and emotional, but worth it.

« Spiritual pain, collective trauma is definitely hard to live with, but what’s harder to live with is that it goes unnoticed and unaddressed. »

Forest said they hope the Cancel Canada Day action will inspire more people to join in solidarity next July 1, with a clearer understanding of what Canada was built on and the will to work for a better future.

They said Friday’s event is open to everyone.

« By coming, you are an ally. You amplify our voices. We want to come together to cancel Canada Day as a collective. »

Support is available for anyone affected by their residential school experience and for those triggered by the latest reports.

A National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line has been established to provide support to former students and those affected. People can access emotional referral and crisis services by calling the 24-hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.


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