The service group that was organizing the Canada Day parade in the capital of the Northwest Territories has cancelled the event due to recent news of unmarked grave sites that are believed to contain Indigenous children’s remains.
Rotary Club of Yellowknife President Wayne Guy says in a statement issued Saturday that when the club began planning this year’s parade months ago, the biggest concern was COVID-19.
But he says the discovery of unmarked graves in recent weeks at the sites of former residential schools in B.C. and Saskatchewan “has changed the meaning of July 1 this year for many.”
The statement says it was determined a parade this year would not meet Rotary’s four-way ethical guide.
The statement follows another one issued jointly Friday by the City of Yellowknife and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation that there will be a ceremony July 1 in the city’s Somba K’e Civic Plaza to “honour Indigenous Peoples and acknowledge the past.”
Mayor Rebecca Alty says in the statement that she will be wearing orange on Canada Day to honour the thousands of children sent to residential schools, and she encourages others to do the same.
Chief Edward Sangris of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation noted in the statement that the uncovering of the graves, as well as the deadly attack against a Muslim family in London, Ont., earlier this month, shows the need to “honor the lives lost and rebuild our relationship with all nationalities of Canada.”
Several communities in New Brunswick, including Saint John and Fredericton, have chosen to scrap traditional celebrations in light of the discovery of the unmarked graves.
Canada Day events will also be partially or fully cancelled in Victoria, Wilmot Township in Ontario’s Waterloo Region, and St. Albert, a city northwest of Edmonton, in solidarity with mourning Indigenous communities.
The statement from Yellowknife’s Rotary Club thanked everyone who had spent time planning for parade, which it noted is a decades-long tradition in the city.
The Canadian Press