Canada Day Celebrations in Limbo?
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Canada Day is a federal statutory holiday observing Canadian Confederation. Originally referred “Dominion Day,” the holiday honours the unification of the three North American British colonies—New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada—comprising Ontario and Quebec.

On July 1, 1867, the British North America Act officially amalgamated the colonies, forming a unified, semi-independent Dominion of Canada, thereby ushering Canada into a self-government territory of Britain.

In 1982, Canada became fully-fledged independent country and since 1983, July 1 has been commemorated as Canada Day acknowledging Canadian values, culture, diversity and achievements.

This year however, the significance of Canada Day is being questioned amidst heightening calls to cancel activities that characterize Canada Day celebrations. 

The calls come on the heels of the tragedies of 215 unmarked grave sites found in Kamloops in BC and 751 unmarked graves in Saskatchewan and movements in Winnipeg are demanding a cancellation of all Canada Day celebrations. Gerry Shingoose, a residential school survivor posted a video on social media wearing a t-shirt reading ‘Cancel Canada Day’. “I’m going to be wearing it on Canada Day. It’s Cancel Canada (Day) and no pride in genocide.”

While Canada Day has not been canceled nationally, some communities and cities in British Columbia have already cancelled Canada Day festivities earlier this month on June 10th, with Saskatchewan following suit. In Manitoba, Chief Eric Redhead of Shamattawa First Nation states, “I don’t think this year is a year to celebrate.” All the Canadian flags in the community have been taken down as a way to honour the children who have been murdered in residential schools.

In Yukon, some communities including Dawson City, Carmacks, Teslin and Haines Junction have elected to shelve their Canada Day plans with Dawson City council issuing a statement that reads in part “Nothing to celebrate”.

Some political heads such as the Premier of Manitoba Brian Pallister and Conservative leader Erin O’Toole still stand by Canada day celebrations with Premier Pallister arguing that, “I don’t think denying Canada Day celebrations is a respectful way for us to move forward…I think we should celebrate our country but celebrate it with its warts too.”

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the atrocities, grief and pain that survivors and indigenous people and communities are feeling is Canada’s responsibility to bear”, Marion Buller, who served as chief commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, want the prime minister go beyond “thoughts and prayers”.


July 1 marks 154 years since Canada acquired the status of a country, and as would have been expected the arrival of summer and restrained euphoria of a country beginning to embrace pre-pandemic culture have coincided with grief and horror.

Canada has been compelled to confront its horrific and shameful past that have stunned Canadians and the world. Recent traumatic events including the discoveries of unmarked grave sites in Kamloops BC and Cowessess First Nation in southeast Saskatchewan—and related tragedies such as growing incidents of anti-Black, anti-Asian and anti-Muslim racism—reveals not only the dark aspects of Canada’s history which lingers on today, but could also affirms the narrative that Canada was fashioned out of “cultural genocide”.

While cancelling Canada Day might not be the “respectful way for us to move forward” as observed by Premier Pallister, the day calls for a reflection on especially the identity of Canadians. There are many positives to celebrate and be proud of as Canadians, but it has fallen on Canadians to confront the elephant in the room and restore dignity and justice to indigenous communities and racial minorities—as the only path to reconciliation.

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