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British Columbia marks National Indigenous Peoples Day with calls for change

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Ceremonies and vigils are being held across Canada to mark National Indigenous People's Day. As Jennifer Palma reports, the day in recognition of First Nations comes with calls for change and collective grief – Jun 21, 2021

A vigil was held in Vancouver Monday to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The mood at the Vancouver Art Gallery was sombre as attendees reflected on the discovery of the remains of 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

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National Indigenous Peoples Day in Vancouver marked with commemoration – Jun 21, 2021

Two-hundred-fifteen shoes lined the steps of the gallery to honour the lives lost as well as residential school survivors.

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The Pacific Association of First Nations Women has planned a series of workshops, including one on how to cope with grief. There will also be smudging and a brushing off ceremony.

Click to play video: 'An interactive Indigenous map of B.C.' An interactive Indigenous map of B.C.
An interactive Indigenous map of B.C – Jun 16, 2021

“One of the main things that we need to work towards is cultural safety so that we can begin working together,” Jessica Miinguuaqtii of the Pacific Association of First Nations Women said. “If Indigenous folks don’t feel safe, then we are at a standstill, we become frozen.”

Read more: How to support the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation after B.C. residential school finding

A statement from B.C. Premier John Horgan and Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Murray Rankin said they honour the leadership, resilience and strength of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people.

The statement went on to say B.C. must also recognize the “systemic racism, discrimination and intergenerational trauma Indigenous Peoples have experienced and continue to experience.”

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National Indigenous People Day: A time for reflection – Jun 21, 2021

A release from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said it’s time Canada admitted accountability for past wrongs.

Read more: Online map highlights B.C.’s diverse Indigenous communities

Some B.C. municipalities have cancelled Canada Day festivities out of respect for Indigenous communities that are grieving.

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki says his city is the latest to call off Canada Day celebrations in order to mourn the Kamloops discovery.

“Out of respect for Indigenous communities across Canada who are grieving, it is important to Penticton city council that this year’s Canada Day activities honour the history, culture and traditions of Indigenous people,” Vassilaki said in a recent statement.

Victoria and Port Hardy have also cancelled Canada Day events.

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— With files from Jennifer Palma and The Canadian Press

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