The Town of Hay River has cancelled its lineup of festivities on Canada Day.
The July 1 events included a flag-raising ceremony, parade and barbecue.
Mayor Kandis Jameson issued a public notice on June 29 stating that all events were not happening after “much conversation and consultation.”
”It is a difficult period in our nation’s history,” she said. “Past Residential School travesties are being recognized at a new level and many people are hurting and need our support to heal.
Now is not an appropriate time to celebrate in the face of Indigenous friends and neighbours while they grieve.”
Jameson encouraged residents to take part in Katlodeeche First Nation Reserve’s planned activities which will include a fire feeding prayer ceremony and a tea dance at 13:23 on July 1st at the Old Village Residential School monument.
Up to Tuesday, the town still had planned activities for a car parade from the Welcome to Hay River sign at Bob McMeekin Park to the Vale Island Bridge and Keith’s Water Supply.
The town also had a free barbecue planned with musical performers and vendors on Courtoreille Street between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. but those names were still being confirmed this week.
Stephane Millette, the town’s director of recreation said he had been excited about the town using the widened, one-way street as the strip has been upgraded in recent years to try to draw more people downtown and to support businesses.
“We reached out to the businesses of Courtoreille and local artisans and vendors who usually attend the Saturday Fisherman’s Wharf market and indicated to them that the street is open for a sidewalk sale type of event,” he said in an interview last week.
Millette said organizers were aware of some of the sensitivities this year among Indigenous people, locally and nationally, about celebrating Canada Day.
Chief April Martel said on Monday that she declined invitations to participate in the town’s flag-raising ceremony.
“What we are doing is cancelling Canada Day and having a memorial on the site of residential school monuments here on KFN territory,” she said. “We are going to have a prayer drummer song in honour of the children.”
KFN’s flag will remain at half mast throughout the day, she added.
The public is invited to the gathering and can wear orange. There will be food and water provided and people can look forward to a prayer song and speeches as well as drummers doing a drum dance around the monument.
Hay River Metis Council
Trevor Beck, president of the Hay River Metis Government Council said that he has had a strong partnership with the town and other community members and has participated in the parade and other Canada Day events in the past. However this year he is choosing to ally with those who are hurting from the recent discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential schools in Kamloops and the Cowessess First Nation.
“I want to stand in solidarity with the folks that have lost and as aboriginal people when we are in mourning we don’t celebrate,” he said. “It is not that we are standing against Canada and the country that I love very much but right now I’m not very happy about Canada.”
“People are mourning and to run a parade through the middle of town and while people are quietly weeping wouldn’t be right.”
Beck said June 29 that he understood that festivities like the parade and other activities for children were cancelled, but he was hoping that it could be a learning experience for young people.
“It is sad that there can’t be some normalcy, but it is time that the kids know about what happened to aboriginal people,” he said, adding that Indigenous people have known for a long time.
Beck said that he was glad that Canada and Canadians are beginning to acknowledge the hurt that Indigenous people have endured due to residential school.
“We need to find away out of all of this,” he said. “I don’t know that way and my intent is to listen to our Elders and people who know more.”