Canada Day’s cautious return

Barbecues, parades, traditional celebrations expected go ahead a year after many used country’s last birthday to reflect on residential schools

Last year, about 100 people in Iqaluit spent their Canada Day calling for justice for residential school survivors. This year, celebrations are planned in the territorial capital, as well as other communities across Nunavut and Nunavik. (File photo by David Venn)

By Jeff Pelletier

Canada Day barbecues, parades and parties are set to go ahead across Nunavut and Nunavik on Friday, a year after many celebrations were replaced with a day of reflection.

Last year, many Canadians spent their July 1 reflecting and mourning in response to the news earlier in the spring there were hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of some former residential schools.

As Canadians learned more about the history of the residential school system, in place from the late 1800s to 1996, it cast a pall over traditional celebrations to mark the birthday of the country that created it as a way to separate Indigenous children from their culture and language.

For example, Rankin Inlet cancelled its Canada Day parade last year in light of the news. In Iqaluit, approximately 100 people gathered for an Every Child Matters rally at the Four Corners.

But more traditional celebrations are back on the schedule this year, though the message of last year is not being forgotten.

Mark Wyatt, the fire chief in Rankin Inlet, is opening Canada Day events in his community with the return of the fire department’s parade. He said one of the good things that comes out of Canada Day is a positive community spirit; however, there needs to be a balance.

Wyatt said the fire trucks will be draped with orange flags, and fire department members will continue to honour the residential school survivors in their community and remember the lives of Indigenous children who never made it home.

“It’s impacted this community and this territory in a pretty dramatic way, and the trauma still continues to this day, so we’re not letting it go just because we’re doing a parade,” he said.

“I think what the hamlet is doing with Canada Day this year is going to be good for the kids and it will be fun for everybody, but we can’t forget what’s happened in the past.”

Iqaluit is getting ready to go back to a day full of celebrations, filled with food, live music and other activities.

The city advised residents of two road closures during the day to accommodate its parade and other events. Niaqunngusiariaq will be closed from Four Corners to AWG Arena, and Queen Elizabeth Road will be closed from Four Corners to Nakasuk School from noon to 1 p.m.

Also, a different section of Queen Elizabeth Road will be blocked off from Northmart to Northwestel from 1 to 4 p.m.

Other communities — including Pond Inlet, Naujaat, Cambridge Bay, Igloolik, Kinngait, Arviat, Umiujaq and Kuujjuaq — announced their Canada Day events on municipal Facebook pages.

Planned activities there include Inuit games, parades, barbecues and square dancing.

Not everyone is celebrating, however.

In Puvirnituq, for example, the village has no celebrations planned because its council decided to stop celebrating Canada Day last year, said recreation director Peter Novalinga.

Lori Idlout, Nunavut’s MP, said in an interview she stopped celebrating Canada Day several years ago over the federal government’s many broken promises to Indigenous peoples.

While she did not discourage others from celebrating, Idlout said she wants Canadians to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action and the demand for justice for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.

“I hope that people take the time to reflect on why it’s important to understand Canada’s attempt to hide its history,” she said. “We need to do better for all First Nations, Métis and Inuit across Canada.”


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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Adanac Ho on

    Many confused people out there.
    Do we celebrate Canada day? Do we bash it? Do we wear orange instead of red? Do we stay inside and ignore gatherings and enjoying the company of others?
    I will raise my Canadian flag! Oh Canada!

    • Posted by Northerner on

      If , its nice out , i will have a BBQ with a few cold beers , Happy Canada day fellow Canucks

  2. Posted by Boohoo on

    Ya just blackball Canada, worst country in the world. Bad things happened, but not so bad with $10,000-250,000 settlements per residential school attendee and no legal fee!

  3. Posted by Mass Formation on

    Social engineering working well and unnoticed across Canada. Simply turn on TV or radio news to receive programming how to think for day and months to come. Be sad. Be lonely. Live in fear. Be confused. Government officials, politicians run the sad, lonely, fear and confused narrative in a consistent loop. Never think on your own. Anyone who is happy, love, helpful, religious or spiritual and who think on their own is mocked, canceled.

  4. Posted by New day on

    Imagine the backlash if the usa decided to cancel independence day. We, as Canadians, are generally poor thinkers, and if the media says something we generally abide by it. Nobody is denouncing our dark past, but times have changed and turning our backs on canada day is not how we move forward.

    • Posted by No Moniker on

      The media landscape and how it affects civil society in the US is much different than in Canada, though there might be some parallels. In the US large mega-corporations have given up on doing the work of real journalism; that is, objective, balanced fact finding meant to get at the fuzzy ‘truth’. Instead, they have become cheerleaders / propagandists / and echo chambers for whichever tribe they have chosen to serve and which, in turn, sustains them.

      In Canada, an unbearably smug and zombie like media lectures the public while it sings endless praise to superficial diversity, moving, at the same time, toward increasing homogeneity and intolerance of viewpoint diversity (the kind the really matters).

      Neither model is desirable.

      There is some hope, however, in the emergence of non-traditional media, including podcasts, sub-stacks, online journals, clubhouse, where people are having the real conversations we need in our societies, not the curated tours through anodyne opinion and intellectual pablum we get through our most easily accessible sources of information.

      • Posted by Oliphant on

        To quote that sage of Politics and Media, Martin Gurri;

        “A curious thing happens to information under conditions of scarcity. They become authoritative.”

        But how could we call information scarce? We drown in its abundance!

        Larger question, who is filling your niche?

  5. Posted by Oh Canada on

    Cause the government said so. Because indigenous people said so. Hey, yes I’m talking to you: Canada day is not about some tit wit government doing this and that to indigenous people. Canada day is for all of us in Canada as people , not as government pawns, or not even about what indigenous thinks about what we should do, no disrespect for indigenous, or Nova Scotians or um, quebecers either. This is not about the fight between the Canadian government and indigenous either. It’s about celebrating more of what we are, I don’t feel defined because indigenous people were treated bad by the government. I’m horrified by it , and stand behind indigenous people, but that’s no way to protest what the government did. Canada day is ours , much better than any government and their abuse. You, know this foolishness just sets Canadians against each other, like leaving indigenous people out there alone; but nope, Canadians are with indigenous people, at least II am, and collectively we own canada day , not the government.

  6. Posted by What an Empty Suit on

    The more Lori I read the more I wonder what in the world was the appeal for Nunavut voters.

    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      Our MP’s track record clearly shows a preference for the cheap and easy symbolic gesture over the hard work and skilled problem solving needed to tackle complex issues like improved quality of life for Inuit. In this way she is consistent with her predecessor. In reality, we all know there are no silver bullets, no magic words, or anything that pouting will solve in this kind of “strategy.”


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