Iqaluit will host subdued Canada Day celebrations

Events will ‘allow for more personal reflection’ on country’s mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples

Iqaluit city council voted Tuesday evening to carry on with this year’s Canada Day celebrations, but with alternative activities that promote self-reflection and education about the country’s mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples. (Photo by David Venn)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Iqaluit city council voted Tuesday evening to celebrate Canada Day differently this year, with activities such as memorials or vigils that “allow for more personal reflection, celebration, education and engagement” about the country’s mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples.

They voted on an item brought forward by the city’s recreation department director, Stephanie Clark, asking council for guidance on how to proceed with marking the holiday this year.

During the discussion, the councillors acknowledged the suffering Indigenous Peoples have experienced due to colonialism, and more specifically, the pain felt after the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., in late May.

Victoria, B.C., and several other western cities have announced their own plans to cancel fireworks displays and other Canada Day festivities this year, saying those activities would be a setback to reconciliation efforts.

Rankin Inlet’s fire department also recently announced that it won’t lead a Canada Day parade this year.

The majority of Iqaluit city councillors, meanwhile, voted to keep some celebrations in place.

“I don’t feel much like celebrating Canada this year, but I do think it’s a good idea to have more intimate opportunities, especially for children,” said Coun. Sheila Flaherty.

Flaherty shared how residential schools have affected her life.

“My late mom was taken at the age of six and she was abused,” Flaherty said. “At face value she succeeded in life, but yet she was forever affected by the abuse that she endured and my life has been impacted.”

Deputy Mayor Janet Pitsiulaaq Brewster called this year’s holiday an opportunity to celebrate Indigenous people who have been able to reclaim family ties in spite of the residential school system.

She also spoke of how residential schools affected her and her loved ones.

“[My father] was labelled as a survivor of residential schools and would be 71 today if he hadn’t taken his own life at 51 because of … the impact of the trauma that he felt … due to the abuse that he suffered in residential schools,” Brewster said.

“I think that this is an opportunity for us to acknowledge that this country has far to go in decolonizing.”

Councillors Joanasie Akumalik and Simon Nattaq said they were indifferent to cancelling the holiday’s events or changing them.

Akumalik said he wanted council to provide a written statement to the federal and territorial government on why it made whatever decision it decided to make.

“I will always be a Canadian, no one will change my citizenship as a Canadian,” Akumalik said. “It is in my heart.”

The city received $35,000 from the federal government’s Celebrate Canada fund, which is to be used for National Indigenous Peoples Day, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day and Canada Day activities, said city spokesperson Lisa Milosavljevic in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

If necessary, the city will give some of that money back, Mayor Kenny Bell said.

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(43) Comments:

  1. Posted by O Canada on

    Greatest country in the world. Lots of virtue signaling lately that I think tries to capitalize on a tragedy. always room for improvement, but I am a patriot and commit to improving my own perspective and my country as a whole.

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    • Posted by Hmmm on

      “Lots of virtue signaling lately…”

      “…commit to improving my own perspective…”

      Might want to start by considering how those two statements are incongruous.

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      • Posted by We are all apes on

        Here is your new perspective; virtue signaling is something we all do and is rooted in mate signaling.

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    • Posted by Patrick Sageaktook on

      Why do you feel the need to say this. No one cares about your comment when you hide behind an anonymous moniker. If you are going to act and learn, why do you want other people to know. Do it for yourself, not for the sake of letting other people know about it.

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      • Posted by O Canada on

        Of course I post anonymously. With the woke cancel culture today I am sure ten people will be phoning my office demanding my resignation, because I am not a POC I cannot have an opinion apparently. Funny not a single reply to what I said, just a bunch of the usual nonsense without rational discourse. I’ll say it again: Canada is the greatest country in the world, sorry not sorry.

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  2. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    Well done Councillor Akumilik. Support you 100%

    Canada Day is much more than what has happened in those violent residential schools, There are 366 days a year we can reflect on the horrors that happened to these children. Only one day is dedicated to Canada as a country. Let us not forget the horrors, but not at the expense of the good about this country. Let us not divide it any further.

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    • Posted by Funny Bone on

      Hey Paul, I’m not sure what kind of calendar you are using, but it sounds like you may need to upgrade to the Gregorian version.

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    • Posted by monty sling on

      Majority of Canada, and NB has entirely scale down CD, so we the north are still playing politics, even at the expense of the forgotten, throw away like trash human beings? Goodness there lot of stupidity in Nunavut eh? As mentioned here at this paper; no graves identified, no names and not even a cross, where are the crosses? hung at the necks of the fathers, nuns and the grave diggers?

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  3. Posted by One-sided tolerance on

    One day, maybe the rest of Canada will start to reflect on the horrors committed on indigenous people by other indigenous people. You can push good people really far, but there comes a point where they start to examine their accusers a little more closely. We may be reaching that point.

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  4. Posted by How It Should Be Done on

    Yes, this is the way that it should be done.

    Rankin Inlet could learn from this example.

    Well done!

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  5. Posted by Glass always half empty on

    In Nunavut, not a single person lives full time in traditional housing.

    Not a single person wears traditional clothing all the time.

    Almost nobody eats only traditional foods.

    Nobody goes hunting using only traditional weapons and means of travel.

    Everybody has access to food, shelter and medical care, even if it’s not all perfect.

    Yeah, let’s cancel Canada Day. Colonial life has been such a downgrade. Everyone would be so much better off if Nunavut had stayed isolated from the rest of the world forever.

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    • Posted by Smarty on

      The issue isn’t whether or not Inuit should never have modernized and joined the rest of the world. That is anyone’s right. The issue is with how this transition happened. In some cases there was no choice, and in other cases they were lured so that the government could achieve its own goals. It also happened far too quickly. Modernizing and choosing to integrate are not the same thing as colonization.

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      • Posted by Observation Post on

        I understand your argument and I think that is part of the story, but I think it is even more complex than that. When Europeans began to settle in Nunavut many Inuit moved closer to their settlements; trading posts and Dew Line sites, for example, because they saw in those places the possibility of a more stable subsistence. They weren’t forced to live their.

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        • Posted by Smarty on

          I’m not trying to tell the whole story. I am responding to the comment above that sarcastically implied that colonialism has been good because Inuit now use modern hunting tools and don’t live on the land. There is a difference between colonialism and being naturally drawn to and eventually adopting modern tools. Colonialism is a policy of control and power over a group of people or areas with a goal of dominance. Things like religion, language, economics, cultural practices are imposed on people, and the government did that for their own benefit. The government doesn’t debate or deny that, and they don’t deny that it has been terrible, so I’m not sure why the commentor is trying to make the argument that it has been good. He is saying stop whining about colonialism because Inuit now have modern conveniences, as if dominating them was the only way for them to modernize.

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        • Posted by hmmmm on

          High…..Arctic….Exiles

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  6. Posted by Loving Canada on

    No one is discounting the shameful legacy of residential schools, or the mistreatment of indigenous peoples, but to me,Canada is a celebration of its people and the things that are good about it. There’s A lot to celebrate as well as to reflect on, and I think that the city of Iqaluit has found the best balance that they can.

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  7. Posted by Councillor Miseryguts on

    Iqaluit: The City fun forgot.

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  8. Posted by Sign of the times on

    The virtue signalling/woke/ cancel culture is having its way with Canada Day this year, and the city of Iqaluit is just falling into line with the national trend so don’t be too hard on them.

    I’ve never really celebrated the holiday myself. But for those who are big on it, don’t be surprised if this same kind of thing will happen again going forward. I’m sure that every year something will come up from our nation’s past to remind everyone of what a lousy country we have that is hardly worth a celebration. At least we don’t have a statue of our first Prime Minister in town that we have to demolish. But, who knows, maybe they’ll have to take Pierre Trudeau’s name off the Montreal Airport. After all, Trudeau did advocate for the complete assimilation of indigenous people back in the 1970s. But, lucky for him, Trudeau senior is still cool with the woke crowd so I’m sure his historical faux pas will be overlooked for a while.

    Anyway, any demonstration of national pride is overrated and old fashioned. Instead, national shame is the cool thing right now. Embrace it!!!

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    • Posted by No Moniker on

      The backlash against the ‘woke’ seems like well deserved inevitability. Still, this issue seems different to me. There is a legitimate grievance here and there are real ways in which we can say look, here was real violence against a community.
      These are not spurious claims of violence based in the use of antiquated language or unfalsifiable moralizing about privilege and systems, but real, discernable harms.

      To those who have been banging the anti-woke drum on these issue for the last few days, I share your distastes, but ask you to be fair minded about what is going on here and acknowledge both the symbolism and the fact of racism and colonial abuse that is staring back at us all.

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      • Posted by An inch on

        Moniker I appreciate your comments but I’ll say this…when you give these people an inch, they take a mile. Nothing will satisfy them. Nothing is off limits to push a polticial agenda, including deceased children of a bygone era. You cannot convince these people, you need to call them out and demonstrate the nonsense.

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        • Posted by No Moniker on

          I appreciate your response and agree with you that there are people who are extreme and polarized to an extent that makes dialogue impossible. Our MP, for example, is more likely to release toxicity and poison into the public conversation than she is to display equanimity.

          But what is our goal here?

          To me it seems we want to present balance and fairness in the face of the extreme and imbalanced. If we allow ourselves to become as reactive and unreasonable as the people we are so put off by, we aren’t helping to create the kind of environment that I believe we both want, or one that will appeal to anyone who is also craving balance and fairness.

          So, let’s maintain contact with reality and when we see real and measurable injustice, we need to acknowledge and validate it before rushing into a defensive posture. When we are fair, we are more well positioned to push back against the absurd.

          Sorry if I sound preachy, maybe I’ve absorbed my early learning environment a little too much.

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  9. Posted by Pro Canada Day on

    Well we may as well not declare it a stat holiday anymore, since so many people oppose it and say we shouldn’t celebrate it. Do your part to protest Canada Day and go to work!

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    • Posted by I Will Work on

      I will be protesting this Canada Day and I will be going to work, like I do many other days. But maybe not the kind of “work” you southerners always think of, I will be doing traditional work. I will be going out hunting because I support my family. My partner and I pay our $50 a month to have a 4 bedroom unit for us and our 5 kids. I paid for my quad with the child tax that we earned, and I paid for my own rifle with the social assistance we’re entitled to. So on Canada Day I will go to work on the land and support my family like I always have.

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      • Posted by iRoll on

        Wow, stunning and brave! You are an incredible inspiration to the kids!

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      • Posted by Uvanga on

        $50/month public housing rent isn’t something to brag about. Get a job and pay your fair share.

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        • Posted by I Will Work on

          I told you I do. I work hard to harvest the animals that God has given to us to live off the land. I support my family and we pay our bills with the very small amounts that child tax and social assistance tell us we can get no more. Why do you say I need to pay my fair share? To who? Canada has given me nothing, they even take away CERB, so no, I will not be celebrating this year.

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          • Posted by Trololololo on

            If it’s not clear to anyone this is a non-inuit troll making fun of their way of life. Living off the government dollar and praising a god they didn’t have.

            Sedna provides the sea animals, not “GAWD”

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      • Posted by jn on

        Wadda! Completely being sarcastic about Inuit! Number one racist! If I am allowed this reply.

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      • Posted by Hunting we will go on

        Excellent execution, even had some people miss it completely, perfectly describes the majority foolishness seen daily in Nunavut. Love being told at the Snack at 10pm I have stolen Inuit work and jobs when you need a doctorate degree for my profession.

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        • Posted by Scratching Head on

          Genuinely curious, what kind of work requiring a doctorate gets done at the Snack at 10pm?

          Emergency thermostat recalibration on the fryer?
          Site visit by delivery driver operations management consultant?
          Ethnography of after-hours dining subcultures?

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          • Posted by Happens A Lot on

            I have a feeling what they mean is that they experience racism going about their day-to-day life, which might be grabbing some food at The Snack at 10pm. That’s a very likely place to run into a belligerent drunk who might start harassing them because of the colour of their skin, telling them that they’re taking Inuit jobs.

      • Posted by Think About It on

        If you want to protest, I mean really protest please give back all these things Canada has provided. The child tax credits, the social assistance you are “entitled to”, the 95% reduction in rent, the free fuel etc etc etc. I am glad you are providing for your family, but the Federal government is providing for you.

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        • Posted by No name on

          You talk about Canada being so great, and yet you spend your energy kicking people who are trying to live a peaceful life.

          Don’t you have anything more productive you could be doing with your day?

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  10. Posted by Umingmak on

    Canada itself isn’t responsible for this. Canada is the sum of all Canadians. The Canadian Government and the Catholic Church are a whole other story.

    Let’s celebrate what it means to be a Canadian, while denouncing the evil atrocities committed by a government and the church.

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  11. Posted by Tuniit Strong on

    For my subdued Canada Day I shall be reflecting on the end of the pre-Dorset and Tuniit cultures at the hands of the Inuit.

    Jesus was born and died before Inuit came to “our land”

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  12. Posted by Nunavut Man on

    Keep in mind that in many other countries around the world, they would not be willing to dig up the sins of their past much less finance it. Many atrocities have been committed by many countries over the past decades and centuries. They were wrong and traumatic but most we’ll never know about because those countries aren’t willing to confront them. Modern day Canada is doing a lot more for its indigenous population than other countries are. It’s because you live in a great country this is happening. No one denies that what happened and finding all these bodies is tragic. However, don’t take it out on modern day Canada. I wasn’t aware we lived in a country where we had to be punished for the sins of our grandparents, great grandparents, etc. Celebrate Canada Day! It’s a great place to live!

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    • Posted by No name on

      I appreciate the way you expressed this.

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  13. Posted by Me on

    What will mean “waving the Canadian flag upside down on Canada day?”

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    • Posted by Me on

      Burn the flag more like it waving it upside down

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  14. Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

    I did not choose to be a canadian, I was force to be one and I am not proud to be one.

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    • Posted by Soothsayer on

      Very, very few people chose to be Canadian. The only ones I can think of are recent immigrants who consciously decided to move here, no one else. This is true for things like race, gender, city and or province / territory of birth. We don’t choose much of anything in terms of our circumstances, we are born into those and as we develop we are told who and what we are by others, we then proceed to live out the roles we believe we are meant to live out based on cultural / family expectations. There’s a kind of absurdity to tribalism, if you can see things for what they are in this way.

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  15. Posted by I live in the Arctic on

    i celebrate it by going out on the tundra, appreciating, it, the country, the weather, fingers crossed, no mosquitoes, also fingers crossed.

  16. Posted by Ambiguity on

    I like the idea of reflecting. You can be happy to be Canadian while being sad about what your happiness is built on; I think that complex, ambiguous thinking can take place on a day of reflection. We tend to pat ourselves on the back a lot, and that is not healthy when done blindly; being overly self satisfied prevents progress, improvements. The bodies that were found are tangible evidence of what Indigenous people have been saying for a long time; it is sad that we needed this to expand our consciousness, though there are signs that an increased awareness and compassion is happening. I do think that I would rather live in Canada than anywhere in the world; for women, despite the work that is still needed and the many women who are still abused, it is the place where we are most likely to be treated as human beings. For Indigenous people, many of whom live in poverty, life is not easy. I am glad we are reflecting, that is the way to be compassionate and hopefully take action to improve life for all who live in Canada. Recognizing problems is the first step to healing. You cannot heal and you cannot show respect by blindly partying and ignoring the suffering of a segment of society. By reflecting, we can all think about the positive and negative issues of the place where we live and maybe make it a better place.

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