Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says this Canada Day should be a moment of reflection to acknowledge the country’s historic wrongs, including the mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples.
Addressing the finding this week of hundreds of unmarked graves at the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, Trudeau said Canadians should respect those who choose not to celebrate this year.
“Many, many Canadians will be reflecting on reconciliation, on our relationship with Indigenous Peoples and how it has evolved and how it needs to continue to evolve rapidly. We have so many thing we need to work on together and I think this Canada Day, it will be a time of reflection on what we’ve achieved as a country but on what more we have to do,” he said speaking to reporters on Friday.
He said all Canadians should aspire to get to a place where everyone wants to celebrate the holiday.
His comments come amid calls from Indigenous and human rights activists to cancel Canada Day all together in light of the recent findings of remains at former residential schools.
One event page, organized by advocacy group Idle No More, titled “#HaltTransCanada for our stolen & murdered children” asks people to join the Anishinabek Nation in a five-hour protest on July 1, to block the TransCanada Highway “one hour for every hundred years of occupation, colonization and resistance from our people.”
On Wednesday, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole shared his opposition to any push to “cancel” Canada Day celebrations.
“I’m concerned that injustices in our past or in the present are too often seized upon by a small group of activist voices who use it to attack the very idea of Canada itself. We are seeing news this week of Canada Day celebrations being cancelled. Canada Day, our day of celebration, when Canadians of every background come together to give thanks for living in the greatest country in the world,” said O’Toole in a speech to his caucus.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also weighed in, saying that he understands why people feel differently about the idea of celebrating Canada.
“While there’s things that we can be proud of, absolutely, there are things that are really horrible, and that are a part of our legacy. It does us a disservice when we ignore the injustice, we ignore the bad parts of our history and the ongoing legacy and the impact of those horrible things that have happened, and continue to happen,” he said.
Several New Brunswick communities have decided to hold off on Canada Day events following the news of the discoveries. Fredericton will be lighting up its city hall in orange in the days before July 1.
In a statement, mayor Kate Rogers said, “Although there is much that we can take pride in as a Canadian, a quiet time of reflection is exactly what is needed this Canada Day to pause, acknowledge our past and think about what it really means to be a Canadian and an ally to Indigenous peoples.”
With a file from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello & Laura Brown.