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.
Two-hundred-fifteen shoes lined the steps of the gallery to honour the lives lost as well as residential school survivors.
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.
“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.”
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.”
A release from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said it’s time Canada admitted accountability for past wrongs.
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.
— With files from Jennifer Palma and The Canadian Press