This year, Canada Day will be one like no other. In the face of the global pandemic, many celebrations have been cancelled or were never planned to begin with. With the recent discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves on residential school sites, the nation has been grappling with the atrocities of it’s colonial foundation. This has led to cancelations and changes of events in respect of our Indigenous Peoples communities. But many of you may still be wondering, what is Canada Day?
What is Canada Day?
Canada Day is the national day of Canada. Falling on July 1st, Canada Day celebrates the first formation of a “Canada”. Canada had a long path to independence. On July 1, 1867 the Constitution Act was signed, uniting three British colonies under the name “Canada”. While Canada did not become a wholly independent nation until 1982, “Canada Day”, formerly “Dominion Day” has been celebrated on July 1st since 1879. Canada Day is a statutory holiday, meaning it is a day-off for most workers and most businesses will be closed.
How is Canada Celebrated?
Typically, Canada Day has been celebrated with fireworks, multicultural performances, live music, parades, and gatherings of family and friends with barbecue being particularly popular. It’s common to wear red and white and fly the Canadian flag. You may also enjoy Canadian treats like butter tarts and Nanaimo bars!
For an example, my favourite Canada Day as a child was full of pancakes and jubilation. The main street was turned into a party zone where volunteers served a pancake and maple syrup breakfast and slices of a massive strawberry sponge cake resembling the Canadian flag. A face-painter added the finishes touches to the sea of red and white, and the town’ss museum was open and free all day. I’m sure we went back home for a barbecue as well.
Canada Day celebrations can also be found internationally where pockets of Canadians reside, such as the Trafalgar Square in London, U.K.
Canada Day in 2021
While Canada is has begun to loosen Covid-19 restrictions, most health and safety protocols remain in place. As such, large celebrations for Canada Day have been cancelled, or we never organised in the first place for 2021. Additionally, harrowing national news has led to many municipalities to cancel or change this years festivities.
On May 27, 2021 the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc announced the remains of 215 children had been found on the grounds of former Kamloops Indian Residential School, affirming horrific abuse long stated by Indigenous Peoples. On June 24, 2021 The Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of 751 unmarked graves near the former Marieval Indian Residential School.
Residential Schools were an extensive government and church run school system that forcibly removed Indigenous Peoples children from their communities in the aims of assimilating them into Euro-Canadian culture. Officially operating from the 1880s to close of the 20th century, the schools forbade children from engaging in their languages and cultures. Former students have long spoken of physical, sexual, emotional and sexual abuse. The trauma of this system still affects Indigenous Peoples today. These latest discovery affirms long held fears; more graves are expected to be found.
In light of these discoveries, Canadians are ask to reflect on the past and the future this Canada Day.
In the words of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,
“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”
Source: StatutoryHolidaysCanada HistoryofCanadaDay Constitution Act, 1867 Constitution Act of 1982 CelebratingCanadasBirthday BCCancels CDCanceled KamloopsDiscovery ResidentialSchools TrudeauStatement