First Nations call for reflection on Canada Day

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Mikisew Cree First Nation in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, is one of many First Nations calling for a day of reflection on Canada Day.

The chief and council plan to spend Canada day consulting elders in the community. In a media release Wednesday, Mikisew Cree First Nation also said it’s urging its members to wear orange, reflect, and remember to pray on July 1 for those found in B.C. and Saskatchewan.

“This has been an incredibly difficult time for all of us,” Chief Peter Poweder wrote. “We need to share our pain, to heal, to pray, and to plan how to move forward.”

The Metis Nation of Alberta also set out a reminder to reflect on Canada’s past.

“This year as you celebrate and gather with family and friends, it must also be a time to reflect that the nation of our shared pride is also one that was built on colonialism, genocide and the continued oppression of Indigenous peoples,” said Audrey Poitras, president of the Métis Nation.

“As Métis, we embody the integration of European heritage and First Nations. We live with both histories,” said Poitras.

Poitras says for many Indigenous peoples, the traumas and losses from Canada’s dark past are a very real part of the present.

A “Cancel Canada Day” event is planned to take place between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. at the Alberta legislature. The event will include dance and storytelling, and attendants are encouraged to Indigenous flags and protest posters.

 An “Every Child Matters” rally and march is planned for Alberta’s legislature grounds on July 1.

“Let’s come together to rally and march for those who do not want to celebrate Canada Day but would rather help raise awareness about the residential school system, the victims, and survivors of Canada,” reads the online event page.

The rally will begin at 11 a.m., followed by a march to City Hall at 1 p.m.

On Tuesday, the City of Edmonton asked its citizens to show their commitment to reconciliation by reflecting on the impact of Canada’s residential school system.

And while Edmonton is going ahead with its fireworks display, there are plans to light the Walterdale Bridge, High Level Bridge, City Hall, and the Muttart Conservatory in orange, the color representing reconciliation. The buildings will stay lit from July 1 to July 4. The city is encouraging Edmontonians to wear and display orange on July 1.  

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the decision to go ahead with the fireworks was made in consultation with Treaty Six leaders.

“We inquired about the sensitivities around fireworks and in the end there was not a specific request from Treaty Six to not proceed with fireworks but guidance to say 'Here’s how the day should be approached and if there are to be fireworks, this is how it should be presented,'” said Iveson.

The City of St. Albert will not be holding a firework display this year. The location previously used for the display, Mission Hill, is the former site of the Youville Residential School.

A local Métis chapter says it will be working with Dr. Kish Supernault, the director of the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology at the University of Alberta, to research and use ground-penetrating radar to indentify any potential unmarked graves at the St.Albert Youville Residential School site, as well as the newly identified burial area at Riverlot 56.

According to Poitras, Métis Local 1904 of St. Albert and Sturgeon County is the first to do so.

The chapter also announced Wednesday it will be approaching local First Nations leadership to discuss the best way to ensure First Nation and Métis children and identified and honoured.