‘No celebrations’: Indigenous communities, leaders share their Canada Day frustrations

VANCOUVER—Jess Housty can’t keep in mind the final time Canada Day was celebrated within the Heiltsuk Nation.

Housty lives within the coastal B.C. city of Bella Bella the place the Heiltsuk Nation is thought for its efforts to assist preserve and defend the Nice Bear Rainforest.


“I can recall a whole lot of celebrations right here, we’re a neighborhood that loves to come back collectively and have fun issues however Canada Day just isn’t a kind of issues I keep in mind bringing the neighborhood collectively,” she mentioned in an interview.

Canada Day comes this yr as Indigenous Peoples take up experiences of confrontations between the police and Aboriginal folks, in addition to accusations of systemic racism in British Columbia’s health-care system.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the director of the College of British Columbia’s Residential College Historical past and Dialogue Centre, has been appointed by the provincial authorities to research accusations that some B.C. emergency room employees performed a sport to guess the blood-alcohol ranges of Indigenous sufferers.


She mentioned celebrations like Canada Day, Victoria Day and Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day are symbols of colonialism.

Canada Day additionally comes after current anti-pipeline protests by First Nations and the Black Lives Matter motion, which provides to the complexity of the nationwide celebration, she mentioned.

“It is a Canada Day like no different Canada Day for a while,” mentioned Turpel-Lafond, who can be a regulation professor on the college.


“Are we the simply, rights-respecting society we predict we’re and we have to be?”

A current ballot of 1,000 folks commissioned by Historica Canada discovered that Canadians have lots to be taught in regards to the historic and cultural contributions of Indigenous Peoples and different Black, Asian and minority ethnic Canadians.


Fewer than six per cent acknowledged figures equivalent to Indigenous filmmakers and human rights activists, or the primary RCMP officer to put on a turban.

Byron Louis, the chief of the Okanagan Indian Band, says he can’t keep in mind the final time Canada Day was formally celebrated in his neighborhood.

“It’s a stat vacation so we’ll take it, apart from that there is no such thing as a celebration in our neighborhood,” he mentioned. “What precisely is there to have fun?”


Louis mentioned there was an erosion of the connection between the Canadian authorities and Indigenous Peoples, which makes it troublesome to affix within the celebration.

“While you have a look at the final 110 years of our relationship, it was nowhere close to what our relationship was once we first established contact,” he mentioned.

Wade Grant, an intergovernmental officer with the Musqueam Indian Band, mentioned he wish to see a larger emphasis positioned on days that honour Indigenous Peoples.


“We now have Canada Day parades, now we have Canada Day celebrations downtown. On Nationwide Indigenous Day we don’t have cities or municipalities holding parades or holding occasions the place concert events are performed to have fun Indigenous folks,” he mentioned in an interview.

Grant mentioned he understands the aspirational side of Canada Day, however as somebody of blended heritage whose grandfather was compelled to pay the Chinese language head tax, he wish to see extra dialogue of what different races have skilled in Canada.

Chief Judith Wilson of the Neskonlith Indian Band mentioned she views Canada Day as an opportunity to raised educate others, explaining how she helped set up a skit depicting the writing of a letter in 1910 from Indigenous chiefs to Canada’s seventh prime minister, Sir Wilfred Laurier.


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The scene recreated the chiefs of the Secwepemc, Syilx and Nlaka’pamux peoples relaying grievances over their remedy by the federal authorities. Wilson offered the scene throughout Canada Day celebrations in Chase, B.C., to indicate the general public the problems Indigenous folks have confronted.


Housty mentioned she would additionally prefer to see a larger recognition of what Indigenous communities are going through.

“I don’t assume we are able to say everybody in Canada has grappled with the truth of what systemic racism is on this nation,” she mentioned. “The truth that it isn’t historic, it’s one thing that’s alive and current and a lived actuality for folks round us.”