New Brunswick communities cancel Canada Day celebrations to 'step back and reflect'

·3 min read
A growing number of New Brunswick communities are opting to cancel Canada Day celebrations this year. (The Canadian Press - image credit)
A growing number of New Brunswick communities are opting to cancel Canada Day celebrations this year. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

Canada Day will be quiet in New Brunswick this year, as a growing list of communities cancel celebrations and encourage a moment of reflection.

The movement to put the holiday on pause comes in the wake of the discovery of what are believed to be the unmarked burial sites of children's remains near a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

On Thursday, a Saskatchewan First Nation announced a preliminary finding of more than 750 unmarked graves at another residential school site.

While a number of municipalities in British Columbia and Western Canada have opted to put a pause on celebrations, Cap-Pelé, N.B., was one of the first in the Maritimes.

Justin LeBlanc, the village's director of events and communications, said he presented the idea to council after seeing the movement gain attention on social media.

"It's time that we really step back and reflect on what happened over the years," he said.

Fredericton, New Maryland and Rogersville followed with announcements Thursday. Moncton, Saint John and Bathurst are not having events, while Miramichi is considering different options.

In the provincial capital where a show was planned, organizers said in a statement that "a quiet day of reflection may be the best way for our community to spend the holiday," given the situation.

Rogersville municipal council is planning to make a donation to an Indigenous charity and is holding no activities on the holiday next Thursday apart from a flag-raising.

Holding moment of silence

Cap-Pelé is planning to raise the Mi'kmaq Grand Council flag for the first time and have a moment of silence in honour of the victims of residential schools.

The community, about 50 kilometres east of Moncton, is also sharing information about reconciliation on social media to help residents educate themselves.

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

When announcing the decision, the Acadian community reminded residents of its historically close relationship as allies with the Mi'kmaq, as both groups faced persecution.

LeBlanc said he has heard from some Indigenous communities expressing gratitude and calling it "a step in the right direction."

"The word on the street here is very positive," LeBlanc said. "People are understanding of why this decision was made."

'That support is heartwarming'

Cap-Pelé's decision to raise the Mi'kmaw flag is welcomed by some of New Brunswick's Indigenous communities.

Roger Augustine, the Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief, said the gesture of raising the Mi'kmaq Grand Council flag is "powerful."

"I'm sensing that Cap-Pelé pretty well decided as a community this is what they're going to do, and that support is heartwarming and I really appreciate what they're doing," he said.

"People that live there truly understand the issues that we've faced in the past, present and future."

John Robertson/CBC
John Robertson/CBC

While some towns and cities across Canada are cancelling celebrations, the federal government's decision to move ahead with a virtual show has received mixed reaction.

Augustine said the movement in the wake of the discovery in Kamloops, B.C., is greater than anything he has ever experienced.

"We've got to sit and talk to each other and see how we can resolve it in a positive way for the future of our children," he said.

"It's sad in a way that it took something like what happened in British Columbia to make people realize what's happened to our people."

Miramichi considering changes

Canada Day will also look different in Miramichi this year.

Mayor Adam Lordon said he is asking nearby First Nations for recommendations on how to mark the occasion.

"We're not comfortable proceeding in a business as usual way," he said.

CBC
CBC

The city will discuss different possibilities on Thursday night after hearing from local chiefs.

Lordon said he expects his community will understand and stand behind the decision to take a different approach.

"It's on people's minds," he said. "This is a moment of national reckoning from my perspective."

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