July 2, 2021

How Canada Day is being observed in 2021

ANALYSIS: Cities have cancelled plans in solidarity with Indigenous people, and the pandemic still affects the typical Canada Day celebrations.

As the pandemic continues to shape our daily lives, and Canadians are reckoning with the country’s relationship with Indigenous people – this Canada Day is going to look very different.

Canada Day celebrations on July 1 are likely to be quieter and more modest as people continue to distance themselves in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Many Canadian provinces are still in the early stages of reopening and have restrictions in place. As a result, the usual large gatherings, outdoor concerts, parades, sporting events, and historical re-enactments have largely been moved to virtual formats.

Despite the current challenges, Canada is still marking its 154th anniversary, celebrating its unique identity, its cultural richness, and to highlight Canadian values of inclusion and diversity.

Usually, Canada Day celebrations include a daytime show and another large evening show on Parliament Hill. This year, for the second time in a row, the in-person Canada Day festivities have been cancelled in Ottawa due to the pandemic but also because of the need to rethink Canada’s own foundation.

Reckoning with Canada Day

Note to readers: This section contains information that may be distressing. The 24-hour Residential School Crisis Line can be reached at 1-866-925-4419 for those who need emotional support.

This Canada Day follows the discovery of more than a thousand unmarked graves of Indigenous children who lost their lives in residential schools. As such, there is a national discussion on whether or not it should be celebrated at all.

Residential schools were run and sponsored by white European settlers between 1831 and 1996. Canada was founded in 1867. Indigenous people have lived on this land for thousands of years before colonization. They have their own nations, languages, and cultures.

The function of residential schools was to assimilate Indigenous people into a Euro-centric society. These institutions were funded by the Canadian government, and largely operated by the Catholic church. Indigenous children were taken from their families, subject to abuse, and thousands died either at the location or trying to find their way home.

In late May, the remains of 215 children were found at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. There have been more findings since: 751 children found in Marieval, Saskatchewan; 104 in Brandon, Manitoba; 38 in Regina, Saskatchewan; 35 in Lestock, Saskatchewan; and 182 unmarked graves were reported found in Cranbrook B.C., yesterday.

Indigenous communities and allies are calling for justice for the children who died in residential schools across Turtle Island, which is now known as North America.

In Canada alone there are 139 residential schools identified in the federal government’s Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. There will likely be many more discoveries as searches of residential school grounds continue.

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