A difficult day: How Maritimers will mark July 1st

The news of more than 180 human remains found in unmarked graves near a residential school close to Cranbrook, B.C., only adds to the complicated mixture of feelings for Canadians this July 1.

For those who choose to celebrate, and those who do not, the harsh truth of what happened at Canada’s residential schools means Canada Day may never be the same.

Even so, residents at one Bedford condo building - who have been putting out Canadian flags every July 1st for the past several years – are doing the same thing this time around. About forty flags are draped on individual balconies in a show of national pride.

At the same time, resident Helen Anderson also acknowledges Canada’s controversial past.

“Canada was not always welcoming or accepting,” she says. “But Canada has learned and I love the fact that Canada can say, 'Yes, we were wrong, we need to move on and do things’, and that’s why I like to celebrate."

But for others, the latest revelations regarding graves at former residential school sites are a reason to cancel Canada Day festivities.

At Meander River Farm and Brewery in Newport Corner, N.S. this year will be a quieter event.

“We just decided that this wasn’t the right time,” says Farm general manager Campbell Bailey. "Fireworks and beer can kind of wait."

While the farm will be open, it took to Facebook to explain why the official event would be cancelled this year.

“We have made the conscious decision to cancel our Canada Day Celebration this year. This year has us reflecting on a part of our history that deserves our attention,” the post on Facebook reads.

“The land we call home and the location of our brewery along the Meander River is unceded Mi’kmaq land. We recognize that our farm, even though we’ve owned it since the sixties, 200 to 300 years ago did not belong to us.”

Other Maritime businesses have been doing the same.

A number of them, like The Flotation Centre in Halifax, and Dots & Loops in Lunenburg, N.S. are donating 100 per cent of sales on July 1 to indigenous organizations. 

A number of municipalities, like the city of Halifax, are also choosing to forgo celebrations and are flying Canadian flags at half-mast or flying Indigenous flags instead.

Canada Day has not been marked at the Millbrook Culture and Heritage Centre on the Millbrook First Nation for the past six years.

“I had decided not to celebrate Canada Day from the point that I became manager here,” says centre manager Heather Stevens.

Her decision, a reflection of the pain, past and present, experienced by indigenous people throughout Canada.

Instead of a formal event, the centre will instead to be open for anyone who wants to visit, learn, and ask questions about Mi’kmaq culture.

She encourages all Canadians to take the time to learn about and recognize the history and traditions of her people.

“It’s generational, it’s generational things that have been passed down,” she says. “Not only stories, but trauma as well.”

For Jarvis Googoo of We’koqma’q First Nation, Thursday will be a day of remembrance and reflection, as he participates in a walk organized by his cousin to commemorate residential school victims.

The walk starts at 9 a.m. in Wagmatcook and travels more than 26 kilometres to We’koqma’q.

“We want to let them know that we remember what happened,” he says, “and we want to do our part to help with the healing with all of this too. I think tomorrow, the walk, is to be a part of that healing,” says Googoo.

Many First Nations are treating the day as a chance to do just that. Sipekne'katik First Nation is holding its own ceremonies tomorrow morning starting at 10 a.m.​