In some perhaps unsurprising news, the Rotary Club of Guelph has cancelled in-person Canada Day festivities in Riverside Park for the second year in a row due to ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the news will be disappointing to the thousands of people that usually enjoy July 1 in the park, the City of Guelph has framed the move as a chance for reflection after recent events.
First, the bad news. As posted on their website on Tuesday, Rotary Club said that Guelphites will have to make alternative plans for July 1 next week.
“The Rotary Club of Guelph has hosted Canada Day In The Park for almost three decades and through this initiative has raised over $1 Million to support good causes locally and abroad,” the website reads. “For the second straight year, we are unable to host Canada Day In The Park […] We can’t wait to join our fellow citizens next year as we look to resume Canada Day In The Park and continue the good work of Rotary.”
Alternatively, Rotary is recommending a walk though their Forest Trail, participation in their Duck Race that helps raise money for Food4Kids, and to discuss the meaning of Canada or the origins of land acknowledgements with your children.
In terms of seeing this Canada Day as a learning opportunity, the Rotary Club has the support of the City of Guelph who released a statement on Wednesday that not only backed up the Rotary Club’s decision, but it added that it’s been a challenging year when it comes to equal rights and creating more diversity in the Guelph community.
“Throughout May and June, we have celebrated diversity at our best and experienced grieving and loss at our worst,” the statement read. “As we approach Canada Day, we reflect on Juneteenth, the multicultural festival, the Pride flag blowing in the wind, our national Indigenous celebrations and ceremonies toward healing, and the discovery of 215 Indigenous children at the former residential school site in Kamloops.”
The City says that this is an opportunity for everyone to reflect on how far the community has come in terms of representation, and how far we still have yet to go, but they did not go so far as to suggest that Canada Day festivities be cancelled. “We encourage you to celebrate Canada Day in your own way as we all work together, to be the change that we want to see in our community,” the statement said.
Following the discovery of a previously unmarked grave with the remains of 215 Indigenous youths in Kamloops, B.C. last month, several communities have been questioning the sensitivity of celebrating Canada Day at a time when many people are questioning the long history of systemic racism in Canada.
While many communities have stopped at cancelling in-person celebrations and large gatherings because of the pandemic, the Canada Day in Wilmot committee last week cancelled both in-person and virtual celebrations. “This decision, it’s a complicated one because it’s leaving many Canadians feeling this sense of discomfort in their hearts and their souls. And we should have that discomfort arriving to this moment of: ‘Is it really time to celebrate Canada Day?'” Wilmot Councillor Angie Hallman told CBC News.
The City of Victoria was the first municipality in Canada to announce that they were cancelling public Canada Day festivities earlier this month, and will be instead be producing a broadcast later this summer that will be guided by the local Lekwungen First Nation and featuring local artists with a goal of exploring what it means to be Canadian.
“As First Nations mourn and in light of the challenging moment we are in as a Canadian nation following the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former Residential School, Council has decided to take the time to explore new possibilities,instead of the previously planned virtual Canada Day broadcast,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps in a statement.
Photo Courtesy of Rotary Club Facebook page