How will the Indigenous community celebrate Canada Day? They will mourn.

By Pepper Parr

June 27th, 2022



Just about everyone has some kind of a plan for Canada Day. And just about everyone will pause and reflect on how fortunate we are.

But not everyone sees the holiday quite the same way.

My friend Steve Paquette, an Indigenous elder who works for the Halton District School Board and was instrumental in getting Ryerson Public school renamed  and for giving the park with the same name something more fitting.

Steve Paquette would like to see sweet-grass grown and harvested in the park now known as Sweetgrass Park

Paquette suggested the name Sweetgrass; it was accepted and the park was renamed. The next thing Paquette wants to see is some Sweetgrass growing on the property.

During our conversation Paquette asked me how I thought the Indigenous community was going to celebrate Canada Day.

I didn’t have an answer for him. Would they not celebrate it the way the rest of us do?

Apparently not. Their take on the day is that it celebrates the land being taken from the Indigenous community.  The day celebrates a day when treaties were signed with the British who were concerned about the land as property which is not the way the Indigenous saw the treaties they signed.

An Indigenous dancer performing at Spencer Smith Park. Photo by Harry Hersh

The Indigenous people were thinking in terms of sharing the land. Property was not a concept they knew anything about or understood.

With that background – it is understandable when Paquette says “they are celebrating the day they took our land from us.”

“They committed cultural genocide and to this day we mourn the loss of that part of who we are as a people”, said Paquette.

So what do we, as the people who celebrate Canada Day, do to recognize the feelings of the Indigenous people?

We read land acknowledgements; we speak positively about the Truth and Reconciliation report but tend to put Reconciliation before Truth.

We readily accept the renaming of buildings and streets.

There is a change taking place; the Indigenous people now have the wind behind their sails.

The number of children who were buried while at residential schools is beginning to sink in – something more than 10,000 children is now more than an estimate.

Many do not realize that Burlington was not the result of a treaty being signed. The land that is Burlington today was purchased by the British from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. When the British had title to the land they gave it to Joseph Brant.

Oakville is made up of land that was named in different treaties.

Will the public hear anything more than a land acknowledgement on Canada Day when they Mayor speaks.

Is there anything more than can be said?

Paquette would like to see a stronger acknowledgement and looks for more significant changes and for the Indigenous people being at the table making a difference.

I think he would like to see the end of unsafe water advisories.

How we as a people put up with having other people, who were here long before we were, having to boil the water before they use it is something I have never understood.


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