Calls to cancel Canada Day festivities a small step for Calgary’s Indigenous community

A woman walks past Riverside School (formerly named Langevin school) in Calgary on Sunday, June 20, 2021. The school was renamed due to Langevin’s role in residential schools. (Omar Sherif/The Press)festivies grow louder.

While Canada’s Indigenous population continues to deal with historical and current trauma, there are calls to cancel Canada Day.

“This is, you know, re-traumatizing everyone,” said Michelle Robinson, an activist in Calgary’s Indigenous community.

“Canada needs to understand we need space for healing,” she said. “Canada was founded on our genocide.”

Robinson believes this might be the first Canada Day that both non-Indigenous Canadians and Indigenous Canadians are on the same page of understanding the pain that these celebrations cause.

The recent demands to cancel Canada Day celebrations come after the discovery of grave sites at several former residential schools across the country.

The year 2021 marks the 154th anniversary of the formation of the Dominion of Canada. Calls on the government from the Indigenous population to commit to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have increased, but hardly any action has been taken.

Since 2015, the Trudeau government has started implementing one of the 94 recommendations. Several other recommendations, including many centred around residential schools, have been ignored.

Ignoring demands to action is not new, says Robinson.

She has been part of a coalition to rename the Riverside School in Bridgeland (named Langevin School until June 1, 2021) for the past several years.

The school was named after a man considered to be an architect of the residential school system, Hector Louis-Langevin. He was one of the Fathers of Confederation and a Conservative cabinet minister.

Although the effort to rename the school started in 2017, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi only demanded the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) change the name after the discovery of the 215 bodies of indigenous children at a former residential school in Kamloops on May 27, 2021.

Not many people expect Nenshi to follow the course of other cities and towns across Canada in cancelling Canada Day celebrations.

A woman pays respect at the memorial of residential school children in Calgary on Sunday, June 20, 2021. The memorial was put up to honour 215 dead children that were discovered at a former residential school site in Kamloops. (Omar Sherif/The Press)

In an email sent to The Press, Adrienne Beattie with the Mayor’s office said the City is yet to announce Canada Day plans. A display of fireworks has been confirmed.

Speaking to the media, Mayor Nenshi said there is a lot to celebrate about Canada.

“Canadian pride is based on a lie.” – Michelle Robinson

He says that for him, and for other immigrants and descendants of immigrants, the country has a different meaning.

“I think Canada Day actually serves as an opportunity for us to tell that full story of Canada and celebrate what we’ve accomplished, but also commit ourselves to doing much more.”

Not everyone shares that sentiment.

“Canadian pride is based on a lie,” said Robinson.

“They’re proud to run away from their home countries, their privilege is at our dispossession, it’s at our death.”

Nenshi said that he plans to reassess Canada Day celebrations moving forward. His term ends this coming October, and he announced that he will not seek re-election.

About Omar Sherif 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Omar Sherif is working as a writer for The Press during the 2021 academic year.