In lieu of Canada Day celebrations this year, the Niagara-on-the-Lake Royal Canadian Legion Hall, branch 124, held its weekly fish fry and donated $2 of every meal sold to the Niagara Regional Native Centre.
“Hopefully, that will help some healing,” bar steward Megan Scott Vanderlee said.
Vanderlee felt that the Legion had to do something to support Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
“It’s way past time. We have to own our past and try to fix it,” she said.
The fish fry has been one of the Legion's hallmark events throughout the pandemic.
“It’s always been hugely popular. The community support has been amazing throughout this time,” said Vanderlee.
Stan Harrington, a former president and longtime member of branch 124, showed up wearing an orange shirt to support Indigenous Peoples and said this Canada Day was different for him.
“For 20 years I’ve worn the same socks (on Canada Day). They’re white, made in Montreal and they’ve got a little Canadian flag on the side,” Harrington said.
“I’ve only worn them 20 times, because that’s how many Canada Days I’ve had them for. But not this year.”
Harrington spoke about how it feels to have not known what was going on at residential schools even though he was around during the height of their operations.
“I should have known because of my age. I should have known. It’s embarrassing that we didn’t know,” he said.
He remembered speaking with Indigenous children where he grew up near London, Ont. They told him that their parents paid to send them to public school instead of residential school and he said he is frustrated that the reality of residential schools did not dawn on him.
He also recalled hearing about a young boy being pulled from a school because he was severely beaten.
“We didn’t know. We should have known. We should have known,” he said.
The Legion will announce at a later date how much the fish fry raised for the native centre.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report