Following the discovery of hundreds of children’s graves at former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, communities across the country are deciding how to celebrate Canada Day this year. In Nunavut’s two biggest communities, the celebrations are going to be very different than before.
Canada Day is usually a pretty big deal in Iqaluit, but the city couldn’t celebrate last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, so it put a band on a truck and sent them to the people.
On Tuesday, council decided to hold subdued, smaller events on July 1.
There will be no parade — which is not a full stop, but an admission that something is off this year, according to Sheila Flaherty, an Iqaluit city councillor.
“There is a sense of mourning,” since the discovery of the burial site in Kamloops and the ongoing discovery of more Indigenous children’s bodies across Canada, Flaherty said.
Over in Rankin Inlet, it was the fire department that made the decision. They will not host a parade on Canada Day as usual because many of their volunteers are the children of residential school survivors.
Flaherty’s mother went to residential school, and she interviewed elders about their experience at residential school. The elders told Flaherty that her mother helped protect them at school.
“Back in 2006, when they said she protected them, I was like, ‘Oh, isn’t that nice.’ Like, my mom in her nature was protective. But since Kamloops, I’ve come to meditate and think about what was she protecting them from?” said Flaherty.
Iqaluit has a recreation committee, and they’ll eventually decide what counts as a subdued event. Flaherty explains why she voted to scale back.
“There is something drastically wrong with Canada, a lot of people are mourning, a lot of people are grieving, and we need to respect that,” she said.
So, something will happen in Iqaluit on Canada Day, like things designed for families, or smaller events.
Whatever the city decides to host, it will be different than prior years.
Iqaluit’s mayor ordered flags lowered on all city property and for all flags, except the Pride flag, to be removed at city hall on Thursday.
The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available to provide emotional and crisis referral services to former residential school students. It is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419. All Indigenous Peoples can access the Hope for Wellness Help Line at www.hopeforwellness.ca or by phoning 1-855-242-3310