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Should we be cancelling Canada Day celebrations?

Should we cancel Canada Day celebrations in light of the discovery of unmarked graves at several former residential schools? My typically Canadian answer is: It depends.

We should leave, and respect, the decision to the individual communities responsible for their own celebrations. If it makes sense to that organization/community to cancel, then cancel. If it makes sense to hold Canada Day celebrations, then hold them. And let’s not judge those who make the decision one way or the other.

That’s a way to celebrate a Canadian-ism in itself.

Each community should look at what Canada Day celebrations are/mean in their community and use that as their barometer for going forward.

Prince George is a great example. It should be pointed out the Multicultural Heritage Society has cancelled its plans for a Canada Day celebration in Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park this year … for the second year in a row. However, the local celebrations have been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, not in deference to the re-wounding of Indigenous communities.

But the example here is the Canada Day event is all about this country’s multiculturalism. That’s something to celebrate. We used to use the term ‘cultural mosaic’ to describe us … in other words the country is a ‘mosaic’ of cultures that fit together to form a larger, greater whole while maintaining the shape of the smaller pieced. Compare that to the United States’ ‘melting pot,’ where everyone is expected to morph into one big culture.

Our Canada Day celebrations have been a place where you can have bannock, souvlaki, and perogies all on one plate while watching Indigenous drummers, Ukrainian dancers, and Middle Eastern belly dancers.

Ours is a celebration of the fact that, even though we have a past as checkered as others, we have become a place that many, many people from around the world want to call home. That’s something to celebrate.

But that’s just us here in Prince George.

Canada Day celebrations are different in every community and organizers in each community must examine what they’re celebrating, and why. In addition, they must be cognizant of the fact the celebrations may not be as universally accepted as they once were and that they can be, whether cancelled or not, a source of division.

But it’s a decision each community should make on its own. And we owe it to those who make the decisions not to be judgmental but rather celebratory of the mosaic of results across the country.

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