Why some are calling for the cancellation of Canada Day this year

A man waves a flag during a Canada Day parade on July 1, 2018.

In light of the recent discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, some are renewing calls for Canada Day to be cancelled this year.

On social media, the hashtag #CancelCanadaDay has gained traction in recent days and several rallies organized by the Indigenous protest movement Idle No More have been planned for July 1 in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and in parts of Ontario.

Dakota Bear, an Indigenous hip-hop artist and Idle No More activist who is organizing the rally in Vancouver, said the discovery of the children’s remains at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in late May has reminded the country that Indigenous Peoples are still in mourning.

“For us, July 1, there's nothing for us to celebrate,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. “We have a lot of healing to do, together, everyone that lives on these lands.”

According to the Idle No More website, the rallies will be an opportunity for people to come together to “honour all of the lives lost to the Canadian State – Indigenous lives, Black Lives, Migrant lives, Women and Trans and 2Spirit lives.”

Bear said there are still so many issues affecting Indigenous communities that need to be addressed before they can celebrate, including the lack of infrastructure for safe drinking water, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, proper housing, youth suicides, and the effects of the residential school system.

The activist said Canada was built on 500 years of genocide and that genocide continues to this day as cited in the report by the national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.  

“The systems that we’re facing, and the oppression that we’re faced [with] through these systems is ongoing, and it’s costing Indigenous lives,” he said.

“For Canada to become what it is today, we had to go through and continue to go through that genocide. So we have to acknowledge that history. But to move forward, there's so much work to do before the celebration comes. I feel like we’re skipping ahead.”

In order to address these problems, Bear said people have to come together as a collective to educate people on what has happened and is happening to Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

“The truth is coming to light,” he said. “The information is more readily available and I think that people are starting to digest that information.”

And while Bear said they won’t be commemorating the founding of Canada on July 1, he said they will be celebrating in their own way.

“We do have a lot to celebrate. There’s a lot of resilience within our communities and we’re still here. So we need to acknowledge that as well,” he said.

---with files from CTV News--

If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419