Calls to cancel Canada Day increase amid residential school scandal

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People light candles as they take part in a memorial event for the 215 children whose remains have been found buried at a former Kamloops residential school in Toronto, Canada, May 30, 2021. (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua/IANS)

Calls to cancel the 2021 Canada Day holiday is gaining momentum after the discovery of the remains of 215 indigenous children at the site of a former residential school in British Colombia province.

The hashtag #CancelCanadaDay is also gaining increased support on social media platforms, reports Xinhua news agency.

Many argue that it should be a day to reflect on the injustices inflicted on indigenous people, including the lives lost at residential schools.

“The recent discovery at Kamloops residential school has reminded us that Canada remains a country that has built its foundation on the erasure and genocide of Indigenous nations, including children. We refuse to sit idle while Canada’s violent history is celebrated,” indigenous rights group Idle No More posted on Facebook on Monday.

It was announced last month that the remains of 215 children were discovered at the site of the Kamloops school formerly run by the Catholic Church.

Since then, there have been calls from indigenous leaders, human rights advocates and opposition politicians for accountability and support at all levels of government, as well as cooperation by the church to find answers.

Between 1831 and 1996, Canada’s residential school system forcibly separated about 150,000 children from their homes, with many subjected to abuse, rape, and malnutrition.

Most schools were run by the Catholic Church and the Canadian government.

Last week, former Senator and former Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair Murray Sinclair warned that there will likely be similar discoveries as searches continue at other former school sites.

An event page titled “#HaltTransCanada for our stolen and murdered children” asked people to join a five-hour protest on July 1 to block the TransCanada highway.

“One hour for every hundred years of occupation, colonization and resistance from our people,” it said.

“I believe every single day that we need to focus on reconciliation, that reconciliation has to be a priority,” opposition New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh said.

“The Liberal government has said a lot, has not followed those words up with action and in doing so has hurt the Indigenous community,” he added.

On Sunday, the statue of Egerton Ryerson, who was one of the key designers of Canada’s residential school system, was toppled by demonstrators outside Ryerson University in downtown Toronto.

The University that bears his name said on Monday that it will not restore or replace the toppled statue.

Last week, more than a dozen lawyers from across Canada formally requested that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate the government and the Vatican for crimes against humanity, according to the CBC.

The lawyers said the deaths, graves and treatment of children who were under government and church care is evidence of crimes against humanity, and they want the ICC to do whatever it takes to unearth the facts.

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