District of Kitimat scaling back Canada Day celebrations.

Welcome to Kitimat sign

The District of Kitimat is scaling back its Canada Day celebrations this year out of respect for those who died at residential schools or whose lives were impacted by them.

In a post on social media, the district said the recent discoveries of hundreds of unmarked children’s graves at former residential school sites have brought to light some of Canada’s worst atrocities and crimes.

It says this action isn’t about cancelling Canada Day – rather it’s about recognizing the holiday this year is happening at time when many are struggling with the nation’s history.

“The intention behind the scaling back of events was to create a bit more space for individuals within our community to reflect on what our nation means to all of us at this point in time, [in light of] some of these recent tragedies," said Michael Dewar, director of economic development and communications for the District of Kitimat.

Some events Dewar says won’t be going ahead this year include a fireworks show, a parade, a competition for the most patriotic house in the district, a balloons show and a water fight with the mayor.

However, many community events are still going on, including a virtual fun run, a trivia challenge, a town scavenger hunt and the Every Child Matters soccer games.

Kitimat District Councillor Lani Gibson says she agrees with the decision to scale back festivities.

“It’s just very clear that a lot of people are grieving right now, and it’s very important for us not to be celebrating a history that has so much darkness in it. Now is really the time for us to be reflecting on 'what does it mean to be a Canadian? And what is the truth of our history?," she said.

"There’s just a lot for us to be contemplating and thinking about, and it’s not really the time for exuberant celebration.”

Further east, the Town of Smithers is co-hosting a “Day of Reflection” event at Bovill Square. The event’s Facebook page describes it as a family friendly opportunity that will honour residential schoolchildren and also hold space for the truth and pain being felt in the community.

The District of Houston has also decided to reschedule its Canada Day fireworks due to the current risk of wildfires.