Painting the town orange: Canada Day done differently

·4 min read

Though Canada day festivities were enjoyed by many residents across

North Grenville, some residents chose to celebrate differently, or not

celebrate at all, this year. The identification of the remains of 215

children in Kamloops BC, 751 children on the Cowessess First Nation

SK, and 182 children in Cranbrook BC on the grounds of former state-

funded Residential Schools has prompted a time of reckoning.

Many North Grenville residents chose to wear orange this Canada

Day. Doing so was encouraged by the Ontario Native Women's

Association as a way to "recognize and honour the thousands of

Indigenous children forcibly taken to residential school, and as a tribute

to the resiliency of residential school survivors in Canada." The orange

shirt also represents a "call to all levels of government to implement all

Truth and Reconciliation 94 Calls to Action". Eleven year old Amelia,

who was watching the Paddlers' Poker Run, told me she and her family

donned orange shirts to "show that we honour First Nations and

respect them." Another resident explained that she wore an orange

shirt because it is time to "reflect on what's been found rather than

pretend like nothing happened."

Get Cronk'd Fitness Studio in downtown Kemptville made the decision

to donate to the Legacy of Hope Foundation, an Ottawa based charity

working to promote healing and educate on the history of Residential

Schools, rather than purchase their usual Canada Day decorations.

They also held a Canada Day class, from which proceeds were

donated to Legacy of Hope.

Diane Cronk explained that, "We're still proud to be Canadian. But we

would be remiss if we waved flags and celebrated. I think this is a time

for reflection. Hope. Showing the community that we care. This is a

really small way of doing that, but I think if everyone did a little bit, it

amounts to a lot...It would show that we understand, we're listening."

She went on to say, "We can't rewrite history, or undo the wrongs. But

we can certainly help the community recognize and reflect upon all

those terrible, unforgivable things that happened." Diane, with some

surprise, also noted that following her statement about this initiative,

the response on social media has been nothing but positive.

"Handprints of Homage", a group providing handprint kits on Canada

Day, sprung up as a way to "pay tribute to a brave generation of

children; children who were torn from their families by our own

Canadian government and individuals from religious organizations at

the time, for the simple fact that they were aboriginal." The initiative

provided children and families with non-toxic orange paint for kids to

mark their driveways or the parking lot at Riverside Park with

handprints. They are also offering ideas and suggestions for how

parents can talk to their children about Residential Schools and

Canada's colonial legacy. Acknowledging that North Grenville is built

on Algonquin soil, Handprints of Homage explain their initiative as, "a

tangible way for our kids to pay their respect and to embed the

message that the young lives lost have not been forgotten."

Flags at the Municipal Centre in Kemptville have been at half-mast in

remembrance of the Indigenous children who continue to be found in

unmarked graves at former Residential School sites across the

country. Mayor Nancy Peckford issued a statement: "Canada Day

should be one of reflection and remembrance. It's an opportunity for all

of us to thoughtfully examine what it means to be Canadian, and

understand our country's extensive Indigenous roots and the racism

that still exists today." She went on, "Learning more about Indigenous

leaders and the many cultures that now comprise this country is

everyone's responsibility."

For more information, visit the Ontario Native Women's Association

website at or, like Get Cronk'd, consider donating to the

Legacy of Hope Foundation at

If you or a member of your family is a survivor of a residential school,

you can call the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-

866-925-4419 for support.

Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Grenville Times

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