SUDBURY — It won’t just be the lack of crowds that will make this year’s Canada Day different. In light of yet another discovery of bodies found at a former residential school, chiefs on Manitoulin Island are again asking people to reconsider their plans for July 1.
“Think about what Canada Day is,” said Patsy Corbiere, United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM) tribal chair.
“We’re not telling you to hate or have racist comments or anything like that. What we’re asking is for you to recognize First Nations peoples and what their trauma was through their lives.”
The UCCMM put out a release last week that said, in part, “Canada Day is a painful reminder of the harm Canada has done and continues to do to Indigenous peoples and Indigenous children. We, the Anishinaabe of Mnidoo Mnising, ask that Canadians use Canada Day to educate themselves about the residential school system and its impacts. We encourage them to start by reading the Report of Truth and Reconciliation Commission and thinking about how they can work to implement the Commission’s Calls to Action. We ask our neighbours not to celebrate Canada Day.”
While some groups have chosen to cancel celebrations, others have decided to change the format of the events to focus more on education. The Little Current Business Improvement Area decided to cancel all activities. Instead, it will support friends, family and neighbours by wearing orange and commemorating all of the lives lost.
The mayor said there will be activities in Little Current put on by the town, but things will look much different.
“Barbeque and some children’s events held with social distancing and precautions for COVID, but we will still go ahead and we will be mindful and respectful of the issues the indigenous people are facing,” said Al Macnevin, mayor of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands.
The City of North Bay will be providing Canada Day activities in virtual form only.
In a statement, the city said: “We would encourage everyone, whether you are celebrating or taking time to reflect, to learn more about all aspects of our country’s history and its relationship with Indigenous peoples. There are a number of resources available online including, the Government of Canada website, for those who would like to learn more.”
Corbiere said First Nations people are grieving, and because of that, can’t celebrate this Canada Day. She said that while most of the community on Manitoulin has been supportive of council’s request, she has received some hateful and racist comments.
She said her focus remains on providing education so that people can understand what the Indigenous community has faced in their history.