The country’s second pandemic-shaded Canada Day is underway, with events again scaled back due to COVID-19, or cancelled as Canadians reckon with the horrific legacy of residential schools on Indigenous Peoples.
Groups, organizations and municipalities who have decided against holding special events today after hundreds of unmarked graves were found at residential school sites in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
Cowessess First Nation last week said that ground-penetrating radar detected 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential School, not long after the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in Kamloops, B.C.
And then on Wednesday, the Lower Kootenay Band said a search using ground-penetrating radar had found 182 human remains in unmarked graves at a site close to a former residential school in Cranbrook, B.C.
Canadian Heritage plans to still go ahead with virtual Canada Day events like last year, with an online music show featuring English, French and Indigenous artists, but the flag atop the Peace Tower will be at half-mast to honour the Indigenous children who died in residential schools.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday that he planned to celebrate the day with his family, while also remembering that others may be feeling pain and anger.
New polling suggests a recent rethinking of this country’s history, with the dominant narrative of European settlers discovering Canada making way for Indigenous Peoples being the First Peoples of the land.
Polling from firm Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found that one in every two respondents said Indigenous Peoples “discovered Canada,” while one-in-three said it was Jacques Cartier.
Association president Jack Jedwab says that among other findings points to recent events and more people beginning to understand the presence of Indigenous Peoples prior to what we have conventionally thought of as the discovery and settlement of Canada.
The same poll found about six in 10 respondents held a positive view of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, whose likeness has been removed from various public displays over his role in setting up the residential school system.
“People are aware of what’s going on, clearly, about the horrible tragedy about residential schools,” Jedwab said of the results. “But I don’t think that as many people as we think are making the connection to Sir John A. Macdonald.”
The survey of 1,542 Canadians in an online panel took between June 18 and 20, but can’t be assigned a margin of error because online panels aren’t considered truly random samples.