Saskatchewan city postpones Canada Day out of respect for mourning First Nation

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MELVILLE, SASKATCHEWAN — A Saskatchewan city north of the Cowessess First Nation has postponed its Canada Day parade and fireworks following news last week that hundreds of unmarked graves were identified on land at the site of a former residential school.

The City of Melville says in a statement that its council held a special meeting Friday night to discuss the unmarked graves and the upcoming July 1 celebrations.

The statement says that out of respect for its neighbours on the First Nation as well as all residential school survivors and their families, Melville's Canada Day events are postponed and that the mayor and council will consult with leaders of local First Nations "in an effort to plan a cross-cultural celebration in the summer of 2021."

It further says council encourages people to place a candle in their window or on their front step, or hang an orange shirt in their window in support of Cowessess First Nation, residential school survivors and all those who are in mourning.

The Cowessess First Nation announced Thursday that 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential School were located using ground-penetrating radar, the same technology that detected what are believed to be the remains of 215 children at another former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

A number of Canadian communities have already announced they are partially or fully cancelling their Canada Day celebrations in solidarity.

"The City of Melville encourages families to still rejoice in all that we have here in Canada and courteously celebrate in their own way. There is a dark cloud that hangs over our country as unmarked graves continue to be discovered across the nation, and we must be mindful of those affected," the statement from the city said.

Melville, which has a population of approximately 4,500 people, is about 50 kilometres north of the Cowessess First Nation.

Following Thursday's announcement of the 751 unmarked graves, Melville Mayor Walter Streelasky extended condolences to the neighbouring community.

"The severity of this indignation is beyond comprehension and we, as your neighbours, join with you in a true spirit of solidarity and reflection as we work to right the past mistakes," Streelasky said in a statement Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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