'That reality is hitting hard': Windsor mayor urges community to reflect on historical indigenous treatment this Canada Day

The discovery of more than 1,000 unmarked graves at former residential schools across the nation has elicited a range of emotions and for some — calls to cancel Canada Day celebrations.

Windsor’s mayor notes he doesn’t have the authority to cancel a national holiday, but says he can encourage others to reflect on Canada’s history.

“We know that our history has warts as a country. We have to recognize that. We acknowledge that,” says Drew Dilkens. “And the best part is, this is an opportunity to understand and to sort of reflect on what’s happened in the past to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.”

In fact, the city didn’t really need to make many holiday changes, as most festivities are affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on gatherings.

Dilkens says city hall will light up in orange instead of the traditional red and white this Canada Day. The city will also be posting a special video to its website at 2:15 p.m. featuring local indigenous artist, Theresa Sims.

Sims will be headlining an educational video — featuring the eagle song of forgiveness.

”That reality is hitting hard. The foundation of Canada was trust respect and peace, and now it’s been shaken,” says Sims, who doesn’t believe cancelling Canada Day will be effective, because Indigenous communities and Canadians need to work together for a stronger human race.

”We all know that loss. We feel that loss as a nation — as multiple nations,” Sims says. “There is going to be a change and I can see it working together because we need allies. We need that support. When someone’s grieving, you support that person.”

Instead, members of the leadership team at Ska:na Family Learning Centre in Windsor hope people will take time on Canada Day to listen, reflect and understand the truth behind residential schools.

“Canada can do, and we can change our way of thinking and education and knowledge is going to allow us to do that in a good way,” says Faith Hale, the executive director at Ska:na Family Learning Centre. “It’s going to change Canada. It is. There’s nothing we can do.”

“Canada will change because people are going to change.”