‘Canada Day can be a difficult time’: Reflecting on the Indigenous Community during GTA ceremonies

A family enjoys Canada Day celebrations in St. James Park in Toronto.
A family enjoys Canada Day celebrations in St. James Park in Toronto. Global News

While a number of Canada Day celebrations are resuming across the city for the first time since the pandemic began, a number of people are taking the day to reflect on dark times in the nation’s past.

“When we’re looking at Canada Day now and the celebrations, I think things have kind of settled down with regard to the sensitivity of (residential schools and unmarked graves), and I think that it’s unfortunate,” said EJ Kwandibens, an Indigenous educator.

When asked about this Friday, Toronto mayor John Tory said “I think all the different ceremonies now take into account the need to respect the fate that has come about for Indigenous people in this country.

Read more: Thousands gather in Ottawa for Canada Day celebrations, protests amid tight security

A number of Canada Day festivities took place across the city Friday, including a community celebration at St. James Park held by the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association. Event organizers say the goal was to honour the Indigenous community by showcasing Indigenous and 2-Spirited artists and speakers.

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“It’s really important to make sure the Indigenous community is recognized,” said Toby Tenenbaum, chair of the July 1st celebration committee.

“We know that Canada Day can be a difficult time.”

Federal Women and Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien made an appearance at the event, telling Global News “it’s governments, plural. It’s all of us, plural, as people who inhabit this land, to understand our background.”

Read more: ‘No pride’: Growing calls to cancel Canada Day amid residential schools discovery

Brad Ross, the city’s head of communications, says Toronto has put Reconciliation Action Plan in place and tells Global News it acknowledges that there is “still lots of work to be done.”

As for Indigenous educators like Kwandibens, he says people can take steps towards reconciliation through educating themselves on current issues, Canada’s history and by being an active ally.

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