Canada Day events have been cancelled in a number of Yukon communities.
The cancellations come in light of the unmarked graves revealed at the sites of former residential schools across the country. A number of Canadian cities have announced they will also not be hosting the July 1 celebrations.
In seperate statements on June 25, both the Village of Haines Junction and Dawson City said that they would not hold their Canada Day events. Carmacks and Teslin followed suit with statements on June 28 while Faro and Watson Lake announced cancellations on June 29.
The statement from Haines Junction council notes a house decorating contest and parade had been planned, but mayor and council unanimously agreed it would be inappropriate to host the celebration this year.
“Mayor and council urge all residents of Haines Junction/Dakwäkäda to spend time on July 1 remembering our past and reflecting upon how they can personally help build a better Canada for all peoples,” reads the statement from Haines Junction.
In Dawson City, the notice from council says the decision was made in consultation with the Tr’ondëk Hwëchin leadership over a period of a few weeks.
“The current COVID-19 outbreak has people anxious about gathering,” it reads. “But more importantly, people in our community are grieving over the revelation of unmarked and mass graves at residential schools in Kamloops, B.C. and outside Regina, Sask.
“We appreciate the varying perspectives on calling off Canada Day celebrations and recognize there is much about this country to applaud, including our resilience as we emerge from the worst days of the pandemic. But the latest stark reminders of Canada’s transgressions against Indigenous communities and the complex relationship with our residential-school history has been tough for many of us. It does not feel like the time to celebrate.”
It goes on to note the community wants to move beyond gestures and will be donating money that was for Canada Day to the territory to go towards plans for an investigation of all former residential school grounds in the Yukon.
“We have also reached out to the Tr’ondëk Hwëchin about planning for how best to acknowledge and commemorate the St. Paul’s Hostel in our town,” it reads.
St. Paul’s Indian Residential School opened in Dawson in 1920 and closed in 1943.
Like Haines Junction, the Dawson notice encouraged everyone to reflect on the past.
Carmacks highlighted the same reasons for their cancellation.
“The painful memories brought up for our Indigenous peoples and communities cannot go unrecognized nor unheard at this time,” it reads. “We hope all residents use this time to acknowledge those who have been the greatest affected and reflect on how we can build a better Canada together.”
The sentiment was similar in Teslin, with the village posting on its recreation page that it is asking residents to reflect on the discovery of the unmarked graves.
“These events, and the prospect of more to come, should not go unrecognized or unheard at this time,” it reads.
“Teslin residents have worked hard to make our community better for all community members, and we work together through difficult times. This is an opportunity to think about those most affected by the discoveries and reflect on how we can continue building our community and a better Canada. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Both Faro and Watson Lake also highlighted similar reasons for cancelling their July 1 festivities, stressing the importance of reflection this Canada Day.
Meanwhile, in the territory’s capital city of Whitehorse, Canada Day events are typically organized by the Whitehorse branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
The events planned for 2021 were cancelled June 17 due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.
“The Whitehorse Legion has organized Canada Day celebrations in Whitehorse for the last 17 years that have included a parade and concert with live Yukon performers,” the legion stated in a social media post to announce the cancellation. “Last year a virtual Canada Day event was organized. Unfortunately due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak in Whitehorse, executive committee of the Whitehorse Legion made the sad and difficult decision to cancel in-person events. Due to the advanced planning of these in-person events, the Whitehorse Legion is unable to produce a virtual Canada Day event.”
A parade, flag-raising and concert featuring local performers had been planned.
While the events had already been cancelled, at Whitehorse city council’s June 28 meeting, Mayor Dan Curtis reflected on the impact the revelations at residential schools sites is having on the community. He encouraged residents to take time to reflect on the nation’s past and listen to those in the Indigenous community, knowing it is a difficult time for many.
The Yukon’s cancelled plans are among many festivities throughout the country to be halted in light of the revelation of the unmarked graves.
A #cancelcanadaday movement began on social media with a number of municipalities then announcing they would cancel their events.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org