Wilmot Township committee cancels this year's Canada Day celebrations
WILMOT TOWNSHIP -- Wilmot Township's Canada Day committee won't hold any formal celebrations this year in a show of respect to the Indigenous community.
The decision comes after the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C. The committee said a Canada Day celebration would be insentive in the wake of the discovery.
“(It's) to create that safe space so they can process and we can navigate forward on what forward looks like,” said Angie Hallman, committee chair and Ward 1 councillor for Wilmot Township.
The City of Victoria has already decided it won't hold a celebration in 2021.
The Canada Day in Wilmot Committee announced Monday there will be no official in-person or online celebrations this year. Officials said they want to give space to the Indigenous community in order for them to continue the healing process.
Angie Hallman, the committee's chair, said it seems insensitive to hold a traditional Canada Day celebration this year.
"The Indigenous communities are asking for us to rally around them and to give them space for them to have their trauma and sorrow," Hallman said. "It's possible this year to create a safe space so that they can process and we can navigate forward and look forward."
Hallman said she doesn't know what that will mean for Canada Day in 2022.
In lieu of a traditional Canada Day, the committee is inviting children to decorate a wooden leaf to share what they feel and see, and what their shared hopes are for the future.
The leaves will be collected at the Wilmot Rec Complex and put on display at 251 Jacob St. in New Hamburg.
The move is a step in the right direction according to Amy Smoke, a co-founder of the Land Back Camp.
“I think it's nice to see folks educating themselves and starting to build that awareness. We could move that along faster. Again, it's so beyond way past due," she said.
Wilmot Township saw its share of controversy surrounding residential schools last year.
Baden's Sir John A. MacDonald statue was the center of demonstrations and debate for months and was eventually removed after being doused in red paint several times.
The Mayor of Wilmot Township, Les Armstrong, was not available for an on-camera interview. In a phone interview, he said is disappointed, but understands the committee's decision.
Armstrong also said nothing is stopping another group from organizing an event.
Hallman is looking forward to working with the Indigenous community to build a new way to celebrate Canada Day in the years to come.