WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
In light of recent discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves on the properties of former residential schools in Kamloops, B.C., and southeast Saskatchewan, some Indigenous groups and community members are calling for Canadians to reflect on Canada Day instead of celebrating.
Several municipalities in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have opted out of Canada Day celebrations. Just outside of Sarnia, Walpole Island First Nation will not be observing Canada Day this year. All operations will be closed and July 2 will be considered a day of mourning.
Windsor jewelry maker Kat Pasquach, who is Cree First Nation from the James Bay region, said she respects anyone who chooses to take a stance against celebrating but asks those who choose to celebrate to ask themselves what they are celebrating and why.
In response to the discovery of the remains of an estimated 215 children at Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C., Pasquach has decided to donate the proceeds of her jewelry sales on Ujimaa, an online marketplace featuring products created by BIPOC and women-owned businesses.
The money raised will go toward the Legacy of Hope foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to educating and raising awareness about the residential school system.
"Given that the findings happened during Indigenous History Month, leading up to Canada Day, I think a lot of people are finally looking inward and trying to understand their relationship in the founding of this country," said Pasquach, who owns Culture Shock Jewelry in Windsor.
She said the public response has been fantastic.
"Not only are we raising funds through the sales, but we've got a direct link for people to donate directly and we've had a lot of people respond to that."
'No pride in genocide'
On July 1, Idle No More is planning a rally with the intention to march to NDP Windsor West MP Brian Masse's office.
The poster for that event reads "no pride in genocide."
Winona Kuwayatakenhas Hopkins, from Delaware Nation at Moraviantown reserve, outside of Chatham, hopes to take part in the rally.
Hopkins encourages Canadians to take the time and learn more about Canadian history on Canada Day.
"Why do you celebrate Canada Day? Why do you celebrate a day on the calendar and then, you know, hopefully, spark a little idea and then hopefully a conversation within the household, within the family," said Hopkins.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.