‘Cancel new target of culture’? Renaming Canada Day events in Winnipeg sparks controversy

Jenny Motkaluk, who is running for mayor in October’s election, sparked a storm when she said she would ‘celebrate Canada’s birthday because I love my country unconditionally’

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The decision to rename Winnipeg’s Canada Day celebrations has divided people, including those who ran in October’s mayoral election in Manitoba’s capital, and sparked debate over whether it’s a “cancellation culture.” is.

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It comes at a time when cities across Canada are figuring out how to celebrate the anniversary of the Confederacy while respecting the process of reconciliation.

Each year, Canada Day celebrations are held at The Forks, a historic site, events center, and green space at the intersection of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in downtown Winnipeg. This year, however, the celebrations will be a little different.

“We are imagining a new day for Canada, a new day with a reflective, inclusive and fun day for all to come together,” says an event message on The Forks’ website.

The celebrations, which will be called “New Day” according to news reports, will include “spaces for healing, with indigenous music, dance and sacred fires,” food trucks and picnic areas, “family-friendly, multicultural entertainment,” including indigenous games, a chalk and bubble station. and an oral history tour with native elders.

The changes have caused division among some in the city.

Jenny Motkaluk, who is running for mayor in October’s mayoral election, sparked a storm when she posted on social media that she “will proudly celebrate Canada’s birthday because I love my country unconditionally”. (The reaction was swift and furious, with one of the more extreme reactions calling her a “dog whistling ct.).)

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Motkaluk told National Post on Thursday that she was “really upset” when she heard about the changes. Canada Day, she said, is a way to celebrate the country and “celebrate our responsibility to make it even better in the future.”

“Canada is my home, Canada is your home. And Canada is the only thing that unites us all. We’re all Canadians,’ Motkaluk said. “And to me, the cancellation of Canada Day was a very divisive act. And I think Canadians need to look more than ever at the things that unite us.”

The problem for her is not that the programming is different this year, with, for example, no fireworks. “The point is that they thought we couldn’t call it Canada Day anymore, right?” said Motkaluk.

For those wanting a more festive Canada Day, said Robert-Falcon Ouellette, a former MP and mayoral candidate, there are other options in town for those folks.

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“Taking the time on Canada Day, which is usually a holiday, to think, to think about our history, to think about reconciliation, and what that means and what kind of country we want, is extremely important,” he said. Ouellette, that of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation. “Sometimes it’s good to take a day where we really think about where we’ve come as a country and where we’re going as a nation.”

For Winnipeggers, the changes were divisive, said Rana Bokhari, the former leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, who is also running for mayor. Still, Bokhari said, “I can’t wait to take my family there.”

“What I appreciate about this decision is that it’s been done in a way that’s in light of the unmarked graves, in light of what indigenous communities went through, in light of these conversations we’re having, these words we’re saying about reconciliation,” said Bokhari.

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Last year, on Canada Day, thousands of people in Winnipeg — and around Manitoba — came to events honoring residential school survivors who wore orange T-shirts, instead of Canada’s traditional red and white.

“I know it is a difficult decision. You know, but change is hard. Healing is difficult. Coming together as a community is difficult, and it will be difficult,” Bokhari said.

Don Woodstock, another mayoral candidate, described the decision as “cancel culture BS,” a sentiment echoed by the People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, who said Canada Day was “culture’s new target.”

“The majority of people who are part of the cancellation culture BS don’t work, they live off their parents or the government and really don’t care about me, you or Winnipeg,” Woodstock said in a press release.

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In an interview, Woodstock agreed that the colonial system had marginalized indigenous peoples.

But why cancel Canada Day and try to tell me and others not to celebrate Canada Day? No human

Don Woodstock

“But cancel Canada Day because of that fact, and try to tell me and others not to celebrate Canada Day? No, man,” Woodstock said.

He said he would prefer the event to remain Canada Day, but to include more of Canada’s history.

“In the end, we’re still better off than in Russia,” Woodstock said.

The Forks did not respond to the National Post’s request for comment on the Canada Day changes. But the Winnipeg Sun reported that The Forks had consulted with indigenous communities about changing the way Canada Day is celebrated.

“We recognize the anger and pain that Indigenous communities are feeling, and we know we have a role to play in the healing process,” said Sara Stasiuk, CEO of The Forks North Portage Partnership.

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Other cities in Canada are grappling with how to celebrate Canada Day, acknowledging that, in the wake of the discovery of likely graves of Indigenous children who died in residential schools, the festive atmosphere clashes with reconciliation.

In 2021, just weeks after the first major announcement of likely graves in Kamloops, Victoria canceled Canada Day celebrations.

This year, in Kamloops, the city says “Canada Day has changed forever,” and that it will partner with Tk’emlúps in Secwépemc “to ensure that Canada’s true history is recorded.” While Edmonton still hosts a Canada Day event, the city notes that the day “also provides us with time to grieve, learn, reflect, commit us to understand the truth, and move forward toward reconciliation.”

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In Vancouver, the annual Canada Day celebrations at the Port of Vancouver are taking a “new direction” with, similar to Winnipeg, a new theme and name: Canada Together. The port has also canceled the fireworks, stating safety and costs.

Scott Gillingham, a Winnipeg councilor who is also running for mayor, said he plans to attend the event, as well as other events in the city.

“It’s unfortunate that the debate has become so polarizing, especially online. As a result, it really takes away from the fact that Canada Day should be a day for us to come together, and reconciliation is focused on unity,” Gillingham said.

• Email: tdawson@postmedia.com | Twitter:



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