Growing calls to cancel Canada Day following discovery of mass grave at former B.C. residential school

Jack Saddleback, a Cree two-spirit transgender gay man, says he has lived in a society that tells him he isn’t supposed to exist.

As July 1 approaches, Saddleback is calling for a Canada that loves and accepts everyone.

“I want to cancel that aspect that says we are not supposed to be here as people, when in actuality, we are,” he told CTV News.

“It’s cancelling the outdated notions of these societal norms that have been placed on our state. Let us cancel that and move into a space that is intersectional, that looks at all aspects of people, that is accessible to all different backgrounds, different socioeconomic backgrounds, different abilities.”

That’s part of the reason why Saddleback and his husband decided to get married on the 150th anniversary of Canada.

Jack Saddleback, right, is calling for a Canada that loves and accepts everyone. (Submitted photo)

“We wanted to change that narrative. When I was younger, and not being able to think about getting married, to not thinking I’d have rights as a trans person to now being in spaces pushing for these rights,” he said.

Saddleback is among the voices calling to cancel Canada Day celebrations this year.

Similar calls have been made in years past. Last year, a demonstration was held on July 1 in Saskatoon where people voiced their concerns with celebrating Canada’s history.

Those calls growing stronger this year following the discovery of 215 children’s remains on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

RALLIES PLANNED

The hashtag #CancelCanadaDay has gained traction on social media in recent days.

Indigenous protest movement Idle No More has also planned several rallies for July 1 in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, parts of Ontario and other cities.

According to its website, the rallies will focus on honouring the lives lost to the Canadian state, including Indigenous lives, Black lives, migrant lives as well as women, trans and two-spirit lives.

“The recent discovery at Kamloops residential school has reminded us that Canada remains a country that has built its foundation on the erasure and genocide of Indigenous nations, including children. We refuse to sit idle while Canada’s violent history is celebrated,” the Idle No More website said.

Priscilla Settee, an Indigenous Studies professor at the University of Saskatchewan, said she understands why some people don’t want to celebrate the the greatness of a country when there is still so much that needs to be rectified.

“I applaud the groups that take the time and energy and daringness to really show that there are other ways and other explanations, and are not pretending that life is just the same today as it was yesterday or the day before,” she said.

“There are many things that need to be corrected ... people aren’t happy just to sit back and leave things as they are, but we need to educate and deal with those issues.”

Settee said the main thing she would like to see heading into July 1 is for the average Canadian to educate themselves and understand why there is so much inequality and racism.

“The proof lies in the realities and we have a long way to go here in Saskatchewan. We have extreme racism against our people and against other cultures of colour. And that should concern everyone, it should concern every person who possesses institutional power.”

'BE ALL THAT YOU ARE'

Saddleback agrees, saying reconciliation cannot happen without truth.

“When I look at residential schools and what has happened, this is in my own family, this is in my own siblings, this is even within my own story of going to day school. These things are not history. They are living embodiments that are here in today’s society.”

For Saddleback, this July 1 marks four years of marriage — a day he will proudly celebrate.

“To reiterate that we are stepping forward with Indigenous love, with queer love, with trans love, and simply with the love for everyone around us that you can be all that you are and not have to hide any sort of aspect on these lands.”