There will be a Canada Day event in Smithers this year, but it will have a different and more solemn tone.
At its regular meeting June 22, council approved a request by the Proton Foundation, Smithers Bridging Committee, Smithers District Chamber of Commerce and Smithers Public Library to use the Town’s Canada Day grant to put on an “Indigenous-focused Canada Day Reflection.”
In a letter to council, Mark deHoog, a spokesperson for the Proton Foundation, that rather than cancel Canada celebrations as numerous communities have done in light of the discovery of graves of Indigenous children at a former residential school in Kamloops, the region would be better served to come together on Canada Day “acknowledge, recognize and reflect on what it means to live together as a diverse community of Canadians.”
“In the context of this injustice, there is reason to understand why this action (Canada Day cancellations) is being taken at a variety of levels,” the letter says. “We have much work to do together to build a stronger, more inclusive Canada that values and upholds all peoples (especially our First Peoples). Would it be of greater value for our region, rather than cancelling Canada Day, to facilitate a means in which community can come together still but be sensitive to ensure the day look appropriately different this year?”
The event will take place at Bovill Square from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during which there will be speakers including Mayor Gladys Atrill and Coun. Casda Thomas.
The opening ceremonies will be shared via Facebook Live and afterward, town officials will remain to engage in dialogue with members of the community as they come and go throughout the allotted time.
The Chamber and Library will be on hand with educational materials and attendees will have an opportunity to write notes, express love, and show tangible support on a “Wall of Love.”
The Chamber will also be taking donations for the Witsuwit’en Child and Family Center in Witset. Donors will receive an orange t-shirt designed by a Witset graphic artist.
“Let us take this day to collectively reflect, not on a settler’s experience of Canada, but on what Canada has meant for the Indigenous people: a nation that is built upon colonial ambitions; a nation that continues to perpetuate systems of injustice against Indigenous people; a nation that has exacted too high a price from the Indigenous people,” a letter to council from the Bridging Committee states. “In this way, we can begin to create meaningful opportunities for a path toward a future that our children will one day be proud to celebrate.”