City of Victoria scraps Canada Day event in wake of residential school discovery

City councillors in Victoria have voted unanimously to cancel a planned Canada Day broadcast in order to permit a “thoughtful reflection” of what it means to be Canadian.

A statement from the City of Victoria says council voted to scrap the virtual celebration following the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 former students buried in unmarked graves on the site of the now-closed Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The city says it will be guided by members of the local First Nation and will replace the broadcast with one that features Indigenous artists.

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation, announced the discovery on May 27.

The school, operated by the Roman Catholic church between 1890 and 1969, was the largest in the residential system with as many as 500 students at a time.

Stuffed animals and shoes were left around the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill. Photo: APTN.

The announcement touched off vigils across the country as First Nations either announced their own searches on former school sites or demanded Ottawa come up with support.

The feds have announced a multi-million dollar fund that will help pay for any searches.

In Victoria, the updated broadcast will air later this summer.

Mayor Lisa Helps says Canada, as a nation, is in a “challenging moment.”

Her statement says the city’s broadcast has been cancelled as council takes time to “explore new possibilities.”

“While everyone will mark Canada Day in their own way on July 1, now is a time where the City can take leadership and provide an opportunity for thoughtful reflection and examination of what it means to be Canadian in light of recent events and what we already know from our past,” the statement says.

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