Hundreds of people dressed in orange shirts marched through downtown Winnipeg late Friday afternoon to honor Indigenous children who died in residential schools.
The crowd left the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street at 5 p.m. and arrived at the grounds outside the Manitoba Legislative Building as a rally dubbed “Cancel Canada Day” kicked off.
Winnipeg police urged motorists in the area to choose an alternate route or expect delays during the march.
It marks the second year that Canada Day demonstrations have been held in Winnipeg to draw attention to the painful legacy of the country’s residential school system.
On July 1, 2021, two statues of British monarchs were toppled during a demonstration that aimed to replace national holiday celebrations with actions in memory of hundreds of Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves in residential schools across the country.
A statue of Queen Victoria that was toppled and beheaded has been deemed irreparable by the provincial government and will not be restored.
Michael Yellowwing Kannon stood next to the statue last year, taking photos as it was tied up with ropes and pulled to the ground.
“The sound of bronze breaking over stone felt like a tomb opening and releasing all those residential school bodies,” he said.
Yellowwing Kannon, a 1960s Scoop survivor, recalled the “no pride, no genocide” chants that echoed last year. He said this year’s rally is a continuation of the inflection point that happened last July.
“This is something different,” he said. “While the rest of the nation does their thing, we celebrate our resilience to genocide.”
Meaning of Canada Day Other
Canada Day has a different meaning for Jamie Couture after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in May 2021.
“After they found some unmarked graves with our ancestors in them, it definitely changed,” she said.
Couture, Anishinaabe, said it was important for her two daughters to be at the rally.
She emphasized the importance of knowing Canada’s past, including the source of the pain for First Nations people, something she has dealt with for the past two generations.
“It just means trying to change the future, trying to fund our way back, our seven teachings, our way and all that was lost,” Couture said of the rally.
Like Couture, Gilbert Paul’s perception of Canada Day has changed.
He attended the meeting because he wanted to see unity not only among the indigenous peoples, but also among people of different and diverse backgrounds.
“I learned a lot growing up and a different outlook and a different world today, and I’m just so proud that everyone is coming out,” said Paul. “It means the world to me.”
Paul, who is Ojibway, has ties to residential schools. Both of his parents survived the schools and it was important to him to be able to place an orange-colored handprint where the statue of Queen Victoria once stood.
“It’s not just a handprint,” said Paul.
Blanche Chief was in Assiniboine Park on Friday, selling jewelry and orange T-shirts with various slogans.
She suggested it might be time to celebrate another holiday instead of Canada Day.
“Now may be the time to have a day to commemorate the colonial genocide that took place in Canada,” she said.
“It’s not a day to party.”