Port Hardy council has made the decision, along with the Chamber of Commerce, to cancel Canada Day celebrations this year.
“The Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce sends its deepest sympathies to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and all Indigenous communities impacted by the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the grounds of the former residential school,” wrote Elizabeth Aman-Hume, executive director for the chamber, in a letter to council. “Through the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, many survivors’ stories have been heard, but this physical evidence of the atrocities of residential schools brings to the forefront the extensive work still required to right the wrongs of the past.”
Aman-Hume noted while the chamber has been planning for the annual Port Hardy Canada Day celebration on July 1, “considering this tragic discovery we believe that holding the event is not appropriate or respectful. For this reason, we are withdrawing from hosting and participating in the 2021 event. The chamber would like to suggest that the District of Port Hardy instead use the funds to support our local Indigenous community. It is our hope that a deeper understanding for all will begin to facilitate reconciliation on a greater scale and deeper level.”
Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year (it’s in the chamber’s contract to stage Canada Day celebrations every year for the District of Port Hardy), which was seconded by Coun. Leightan Wishart.
“Are we ashamed of Canada?” asked Coun. John Tidbury, who added he feels like cancelling Canada Day celebrations is basically admitting they are.
“I don’t think that’s the point,” said Coun. Fred Robertson, who then said while he is proud of being born and raised here in Canada, the country’s tragic relationship with First Nations needs to have some serious light shone on it in wake of mass grave sites being found at former residential schools.
The motion to not hold Canada Day celebrations on July 1 was approved, with Tidbury being the lone vote against it.
“We will have our own Canada Day celebration within ourselves,” said Mayor Dennis Dugas. “I don’t have any issues with regards to everybody doing their own celebration in their own way.”
Discussions on what to do with the Canada Day celebration funds will be held at a future date.