The discovery of numerous unmarked graves in residential schools has sparked a debate across the country on the merits of celebrating Canada Day. In the wake of those horrible findings, indigenous leaders and their people have started seeing this national holiday differently.
John Nick Jeddore, a neurology resident at Memorial University from Miawpukek First Nation, stated:
“It’s tough to celebrate anything right now, in my opinion. These stories have been present since lived experiences have been in Canada … but they’re absolutely gut wrenching when they’re confirmed.”
Inuk singer Deantha Edmunds also shared some insight on the matter:
“We just couldn’t think about Canada Day this year, because it doesn’t feel appropriate to celebrate. We were talking about how do we move through this. And so we were thinking that a thoughtful way to gather could be spending some time outside in nature. I feel like all the emotions I’m having, I can’t find the words for. So it’s kind of difficult to talk, but I’m always able to sing.”
Although many want to cancel Canada day, John Nick Jeddore stated that it is better to focus on learning and listening to the stories of the past, and trying not to repeat those mistakes.
“I think it’s time that we redefine what ‘Canada Day’ means. It can be a day of reflection, a day of recognizing that we’re building a country that has a lot of opportunities for a lot of people. But it’s also … a day of recognizing that Canada is not perfect. It’s never been perfect, but it doesn’t mean we can’t continue to improve. For me, it’s not about cancelling your pride and being happy about where you’re from, it’s about changing the tone of the conversation so that we can all collectively celebrate Canada someday.”
St. John’s South–Mount Pearl MP Seamus O’Regan, who also serves as minister of natural resources, also shared his thoughts:
“I’ll be taking that time myself to reflect myself, as a Canadian, as Newfoundlander [and] Labradorian, a former minister of Indigenous services, on what we need to do better.”