Opinion

Ponoka mayor: Reflecting on Canada Day

As July 1 approaches, there are mixed opinions on whether to celebrate Canada Day.

We’re facing difficult times in Canada with the heartbreaking findings of 751 unmarked graves near a former residential school site in Saskatchewan, and the remains of 215 children that were found on a former residential school site in British Columbia.

As we join our First Nations neighbours in grieving over these tragic findings, I would encourage us all to make this Canada Day a time for reflection and to educate ourselves about our country’s past, including the dark history surrounding residential schools.

Consider taking time to read about residential schools and the stories shared by survivors, and consider reading the 94 calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

As Ponoka’s Mayor, I’ve read with a heavy heart about the burial sites in Saskatchewan and B.C. And I’ve listened as people on both sides of the discussion talk about whether to celebrate Canada Day.

What Are We Celebrating?

In Ponoka, the town is planning to host fireworks on July 1 in partnership with the Ponoka Stampede Association. I’ve given a lot of thought as to whether we should host fireworks this year and I’ve asked myself ‘What are we celebrating?’

I’ve heard many people suggest that rather than celebrating our country’s past on Canada Day, we should celebrate what we want Canada to be in the future as we work toward reconciliation and making this country a better place for all who live here. I think there’s a lot of merit in that point of view.

It doesn’t mean we should ignore the past or the tragic events that are unfolding today around residential schools. Quite the opposite. We need to acknowledge and learn from Canada’s mistakes and respect each other as we work on building a better future.

I think it’s also important to look forward and reflect on the role that each of us wants to play in helping make this country a better place for everyone.

As Mayor, on Canada Day I encourage you to do what feels right for you.

You may not feel like celebrating, and that’s understandable. But if you choose to celebrate, I invite you to be thoughtful about what you’re celebrating, and to think about the Canada you want to help shape into the future.

Rick Bonnett is Mayor of Town of Ponoka.