Victoria scraps online Canada Day event after remains found at Kamloops residential school

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The City of Victoria has cancelled a planned online Canada Day presentation as the community grapples with the discovery of the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

The city will instead work with local First Nations to produce an alternative broadcast that will air later in the summer “that explores what it means to be Canadian, in light of recent events,” according to a City of Victoria media release.

The decision came in a unanimous vote at Victoria city council Thursday.

It came after some Lekwungen First Nations people, who have long participated in the city’s Canada Day events, said they would not take part this year due to the pain and trauma of the discovery.

“It was difficult, much as reconciliation is difficult work and hard conversations and grappling with the realities of the colonial — and in some cases, genocidal — past of the country,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said of the decision.

“Together with the good things about living in Canada and together with a deep path of reconciliation, we’re walking with the Songhees and the Esquimalt nations.”

No date has been provided for the one-hour replacement broadcast.

The motion approved Thursday says that program will be looked at as an educational opportunity, which could include Lekwungen elders sharing their history of the land now known as Victoria, an educational piece on residential schools and Sir John A Macdonald, along with other contributions First Nations may wish to make.

The City of Victoria made headlines in 2018 when it removed a statue of Macdonald outside of city hall, following consultations with First Nations, over the former prime minister’s role in the creation of residential schools.

A reconciliation plaque now stands in the statue’s place, while consultation is underway to decide where to ultimately move it.

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