Communities in Waterloo region are reimagining Canada Day to be more inclusive and to honour Indigenous peoples.

Organizers of Canada Day in Wilmot said they worked with local Indigenous leaders to develop the plan for their festivities this year.

The event will begin Friday morning at 6 a.m. with an Indigenous sunrise ceremony led by an Indigenous Elder. In the afternoon, at the opening ceremonies, the national anthem will be sung in both English and Cree. In the evening, during the firework show, the creation story will be read out loud.

“We have Indigenous-focused in the morning, in the middle, and at the end of the day,” said event organizer Angie Hallman, explaining the structure is like the Métis infinity symbol.

Hallman said it’s important to honour Indigenous peoples.

“We can’t do reconciliation without truth, so [we’re] going forward together and choosing whatever Canada feels like to you, we encourage people to just come as you are and let go forward together. ”

WATERLOO PLANS EVOLVE

In Waterloo, the city will be hosting its first in-person Canada Day celebration.

Usually, the University of Waterloo puts on the Canada Day event at Columbia Lake, but the university is longer hosting.

The City of Waterloo said to differentiate itself from UW’s event, it is not calling the celebration Canada Day, but instead the July 1 Community Picnic.

Festivities will take place at Waterloo Park, where there will be live music from local artists, food, games, and a LED light show to end the night.

The city said it wants to be more mindful of Canada’s history, which is why an Indigenous art installation, called Hope and Healing Canada, will also be on-site.

“It uses large knit and crochet pieces to illustrate the connection between people and their environment, and to promote dialogue, questioning the connection between Indigenous, Inuit, Metis and settlers,” said Lakyn Barton, festival and events specialist with City of Waterloo. “You can look through and see the sky and it’s about changing the lens in which you’re viewing the land.”

Barton said it’s important to understand that Canada Day is not a celebration for everyone.

“To be respectful and to honour that pain,” she said. “So we’re trying to shift our event to talk more about what do we have locally and how do we propel these conversations forward.”

RECOGNIZING 'SHORTCOMINGS'

The Anishinabek Nation, a political body that represents First Nations across Ontario, said it encourages Canadians to reflect on the history of the country.

Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe said Canada Day is often a somber day for Indigenous people, as it brings up the dark history.

“The Indigenous history, it’s been erased for so long, or forgotten for so long, or suppressed for so long. It’s important now to have that included to tell the story of Canada and tell the true story of Canada,” he said. “That’s the only way we can progress together in reconciliation. If there is true reconciliation, then we do need to recognize the shortcomings that exist now and have existed in the past.”