'Beyond disgusted': With roots in Indigenous culture, Newmarket should cancel Canada Day fireworks, man says
June 30, 2021
With hundreds of graves of Indigenous children discovered at residential school sites, Newmarket resident Doug Brown is "beyond disgusted" the town will proceed with its Canada Day celebrations.
The town is holding a sold-out, drive-in concert and fireworks event at Magna Centre the night of July 1.
Some municipalities, such as Victoria and Kamloops, B.C. and Rankin Inlet, Nvt., have cancelled Canada Day celebrations.
As a community with deep roots in Indigenous culture, Brown wrote in a letter that Newmarket should be "ashamed to be part of a colonial celebration rubbing salt in the wounds of trauma of our Indigenous people".
While Mayor John Taylor has had extensive involvement with Indigenous communities and is troubled by the "atrocities" of residential schools, he said there is still a place for celebrating Canada Day.
“You and I may not agree on cancelling Canada Day, but we are united in our concern and commitment to being strong allies of Indigenous communities across Canada," he told Brown. "I believe that we can both celebrate our country and the many wonderful things it represents and at the same time pause and reflect on the atrocities and failings of our country, both historically and today.
"I think we can be both ashamed of our colonial past and proud that so many residents are committed to the work of truth and reconciliation. I think we can be proud of our diversity and at the same time recognize that systemic racism exists and must be addressed. Ongoing education and engagement is the path to a better future and that can, and, in my humble opinion, must be achieved, while celebrating what is great about our country."
Cancelling Canada Day could create a rift among people who are finally coming together to recognize the atrocities of residential schooling and unite on the need for action, Taylor argued.
While Brown understands how polarizing the issue of holding Canada Day festivities is, he remains opposed to Newmarket’s July 1 celebrations because they come across as "selfish and colonial".
Brown is also against the town holding a paid event where numbers are limited and only residents with cars can attend, meaning many people, including residents with lower incomes, can’t participate.
"I don’t want to say cancel Canada Day, but could you do something different?" he said to YorkRegion.com.
"Could you not do something that everyone could participate in some way, whether it’s virtual or it’s not virtual in an open area and, at the same time, use that as an opportunity to reflect on the issues of Indigenous people? Make it about both."
Taylor’s involvement with Indigenous communities includes having been a teacher in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, visiting more than 40 Indigenous communities, publishing a report in a book called "First Nations Education in Canada: The Circle Unfolds", serving for eight years as an advisory board member of Teach for Canada, an organization that recruits, trains, and supports teachers working in remote and northern communities, and teaching a course at the University of British Columbia on equity issues in education.