Penticton joins Victoria in cancelling Canada Day activities

·2 min read
Penticton city council decided to cancel its annual Canada Day events in 2021. It says up to 1500 people usually attend. (City of Penticton - image credit)
Penticton city council decided to cancel its annual Canada Day events in 2021. It says up to 1500 people usually attend. (City of Penticton - image credit)

The City of Penticton has joined Victoria in cancelling its Canada Day celebrations in the wake of the discovery of what are believed to be the unmarked burial sites of childrens' remains near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

"When we heard what happened in Kamloops and they found the 215 unmarked graves of those children, we thought it was appropriate to hold back and wait to see what the federal government was going to announce," said Mayor John Vassilak about the announcement made Friday.

Vassilak said the city, which has more than 33,000 residents, was looking for direction from Ottawa over cancelling events. So far the federal government has not announced any plans to cancel national celebrations.

He says the choice was made easier after he reached out to Chief Greg Gabriel of the Penticton Indian Band, to ask how council could support the local First Nations community following the discovery.

'We wanted to show respect and reconciliation'

"[The Chief] also made a note that if we were to cool down the celebrations this year, it would be greatly appreciated by the Penticton Indian Band," said Vassilak.

"And we wanted to show respect and reconciliation with what happened in Kamloops," he added.

Vassilak says Victoria's decision to cancel celebrations helped them follow suit.

"It did help when we knew our capital city cancelled it. So that's a good sign for the rest of the province to follow," he said.

Brittany Roffel/CBC News
Brittany Roffel/CBC News

He says the community in Penticton has been understanding and supportive of the decision.

Victoria also cancelled celebrations

The move comes a little over a week after Victoria's city council voted on June 10 to unanimously cancel its Canada Day events.

In an interview on CBC's On the Island prior to council's decision to cancel scheduled programming, Mayor Lisa Helps said she spoke with Indigenous people who in past have participated in Canada Day celebrations in Victoria who told her they didn't feel they could do so this year.

Helps said at the time that they weren't comfortable participating because they were "grief-struck and reeling."

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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