Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

·2 min read

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — A city northwest of Edmonton says it has cancelled its Canada Day fireworks display because it was to be held on the site of a former residential school.

The City of St. Albert says in a news release that Mission Hill, where the July 1 display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School and that it "likely" contains unmarked graves of former students.

It says it made the decision to "demonstrate empathy and respect for members of the community who have experienced, and who continue to experience, the devastating effects of intergenerational trauma because of the residential school system in Canada."

The release notes that the city wasn't able to find another suitable location in time that that met the technical and safety requirements for a fireworks display.

Last month, a First Nation in British Columbia announced that ground-penetrating radar had found what are believed to be the remains of 215 children buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops.

The City of St. Albert news release says it also scaled back a number of Canada Day activities due to the uncertainty of provincial COVID-19 public health measures.

"The City of St. Albert encourages residents to spend this Canada Day considering both the opportunities and freedoms afforded to many within our country as well as the tragic history that our nation’s story has been built upon," Mayor Cathy Heron said in a separate release on Friday.

"With this in mind, we can reflect on our past while holding onto hope for an even better future for everyone."

The city made the announcement about the fireworks cancellation and scaling back events on Friday, the same day Premier Jason Kenney also said remaining public health restrictions would be lifted July 1.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson tweeted Saturday that the city's Canada Day fireworks will be going ahead.

The leaders of three communities in northern Saskatchewan, meanwhile, have collectively decided to cancel Canada Day celebrations such as fireworks this year and instead focus on National Indigenous People's Day on Monday.

The leaders of La Ronge, the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and the village of Air Ronge say it's in response to the findings in Kamloops.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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