Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struck a different tone in his Canada Day statement this year, as the country reels from the discovery of over 1,100 unmarked graves across three former residential school sites in Canada.
In the statement, Trudeau acknowledged that for some, July 1 is “not yet a day of celebration.”
“The horrific findings of the remains of hundreds of children at the sites of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have rightfully pressed us to reflect on our country’s historical failures, and the injustices that still exist for Indigenous peoples and many others in Canada,” Trudeau said.
“We as Canadians must be honest with ourselves about our past.”
Last week, Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan said that a ground-penetrating radar detected an estimated 751 unmarked graves at the site where the Marieval Indian Residential School once sat. The news came not long after the remains of 215 children were found at another former residential school site in Kamloops.
Just one day before Canada was set to celebrate its national pride on July 1, the Lower Kootenay Band said a search using the same ground-penetrating radar technology found 182 human remains in unmarked graves near a former residential school site in Cranbrook, B.C.
182 unmarked graves found near Cranbrook, B.C. residential school on eve of Canada Day
As communities and families reel from the news, some advocates have called on Canadians to hold off on the fireworks and fanfare for Canada Day this year.
“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,” read a post on Indigenous rights group Idle No More’s website.
“We refuse to sit idle while Canada’s violent history is celebrated.”
The government has faced questions about whether Canada’s government-run celebrations should still take place, given the dark discoveries that marked recent days and weeks.
Canadian Heritage is still holding its virtual Canada Day events, including an online concert featuring French, English and Indigenous musicians. However, as those events kick-off, the flag on the Peace Tower in Ottawa will sit at half-mast in recognition of the Indigenous children who died in residential schools across the country.
Trudeau has said he plans to spend the day celebrating with his family. His agenda also lists a closed-door meeting today with Phyllis Webstad, who is the founder of Orange Shirt Day — a national day of remembrance for victims of the residential school system.
National Chief Bellegarde comments on residential school unmarked graves discovery near B.C.
In his Thursday statement, the prime minister also highlighted Canada’s accomplishments in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has changed our daily lives, taught us hard lessons, and kept us apart. But through this challenge and crisis, Canadians were there for each other. We all — young and old — made personal sacrifices to help keep our communities safe and healthy,” he said.
“We put signs in our windows and banged pots and pans for our front-line health care workers. We ordered takeout and shopped at our local small businesses. And once vaccines became available, we got our shots as soon as possible, so our communities could return to normal.”
He said that today, Canadians can reflect on our accomplishments, while also looking forward to “what more we have to do.”
“This Canada Day, let’s recommit to learning from and listening to each other so we can break down the barriers that divide us, rectify the injustices of our past, and build a more fair and equitable society for everyone,” Trudeau said.
“Together, we will roll up our sleeves and do the hard work that is necessary to build a better Canada.”
Trudeau wasn’t the only leader to share his thoughts this Canada Day. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also posted a video on his Twitter in celebration of the day.
“Happy Canada Day. Despite the challenges this last year, Canadians have risen to the task with our determination, our resiliency, our compassion,’ O’Toole said.
“The challenges have been steep, but there’s hope on the horizon now as our country is finally starting to reopen. I firmly believe that our country’s best days are ahead of us.”
O’Toole says cancelling Canada Day means losing opportunity to challenge others to ‘do better’
He added that his family is “excited to get to Nova Scotia” after the pandemic. He did not mention the recent residential school discoveries anywhere in his statement.
O’Toole did acknowledge the calls to celebrate Canada Day differently this year in a separate tweet, however.
“As someone who has served Canada and will soon ask for the trust to lead our country, I can’t stay silent when people want to cancel Canada Day,” he said.
“I am very proud to be Canadian and I know most people are.”
In a third statement, issued Thursday afternoon, O’Toole delved deeper into the issues that prompted calls to mark Canada Day differently this year.
“Canada is a great country and our commitment to freedom and dignity for all people also means we must acknowledge the injustices of our past and the inequalities of our present,” he wrote.
“We are not a perfect country, but our shared commitment to the values of Canada means that we should use this national day of celebration as an opportunity to recommit to building a more inclusive and just society today and in the future.”
O’Toole added that reconciliation with Indigenous peoples “must be a central focus of the Canadian future as it is a great failure of our past.”
“The road to reconciliation does not start by tearing Canada down, but by recommitting to building Canada and all its people up,” he said.
“We can celebrate the country that we are and the one we aspire to be.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, said that he plans to “honour” requests from Indigenous communities that Canadians mark Canada Day in “reflection” as opposed to “celebration.”
“When people are hurting – we have to be there for them. When we ignore injustices it does a disservice to us all,” he wrote in a tweet.
“When we ignore the impact of the horrible things that have happened – we give permission for them to continue. In reflection and in action we can and must do better.”
Parliament Hill also looked very different from previous years on Thursday. While past years have seen massive crowds of revelers dressed in red and white, this year the crowds were a sea of orange, the colour of the shirts worn to mark the memory of the victims of residential school.
“No pride in genocide,” they chanted as they walked onto the grounds of Parliament Hill.
‘Every Child Matters Walk’ honours former residential school students on Canada Day
Webstad, the founder of the Orange Shirt Day, was just six years old when her grandmother brought her to a store to choose clothes for her first day of school. She picked out a shiny orange shirt.
But when she arrived at the residential school, she was stripped of her clothing — including the orange shirt she had been so excited to wear.
“I never did wear it again,” said Webstad in a video explaining the origins of the shirt.
Demonstrators wore orange shirts adorned with messages, including “Indigenous Lives Matter” and “every child matters.”
“We will not celebrate the ongoing genocide within Canada against Indigenous people,” read the Facebook event for the demonstration.
“Instead we will gather to honour all of the lives lost to the Canadian state, including the many lives lost to residential schools. ”
— With files from The Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada’s wildfires could cost billions, kill thousands if nothing is done: report – Global News
Western Canada must urgently address the threats posed by highly destructive wildfires or face deadly and costly consequences, says a group of forest and environmental experts from British Columbia and the United States.
The experts, including Mathieu Bourbonnais, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of B.C. Okanagan, predict devastating wildfires like those currently burning in B.C. will be “commonplace” by 2050.
The group has released a paper predicting billions of dollars spent on suppression and indirect costs from the fires _ as well as hundreds or thousands of premature deaths each year due to smoke exposure _ ifaction isn’t taken to address climate change and the “daunting” scale of fuel, such as fallen trees and dead vegetation, that’s built up.
“If you look at record-breaking seasons, we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on fire suppression,” said Bourbonnais, a former wildland firefighter from Alberta.
Concerns about the adverse effects of B.C. wildfire smoke pollution
“You can think about, if you spread that out over a couple of seasons, how may communities we could be engaged with on protecting watersheds, protecting drinking water sources, the communities themselves, high-value infrastructure, the ecosystems,” he said in an interview. “By doing that, we’re investing in a future that hopefully we don’t need to spend those kind of dollars on fire suppression.”
The group’s paper suggests creating patches of space in the forest that contain less flammable material, a strategy that can also boost the efficacy of fire suppression efforts, said Bourbonnais.
“Rather than crews responding to a fire with nothing but fuel in front of them, there are natural fire breaks, there’s old prescribed burns that help slow the fire down.”
Asked about the paper, the director of fire centre operations for the BC Wildfire Service said there was recognition of the work that needed to be done with communities as well as reducing fuel in the forests following historic wildfire seasons in 2017 and 2018.
“I’m part of many different planning tables and discussions within this province and within this ministry on how do we do this better,” Rob Schweitzer told a news conference on Thursday.
“Through prescribed fire, through utilization of Indigenous traditional knowledge in use of fire, as well as amending our forest harvesting practices and the woody debris left behind, are all pieces that we continue to discuss and actually start to change policy and implement new strategies to help reduce that amount of fuel.”
South Okanagan couple loses home to Nk’Mip Creek wildfire
About 1,250 wildfires have charred 4,560 square kilometres of bush since the start of B.C.’s fire season in April, compared with the 10-year average of 658 fires and about 1,060 square kilometres burned over the same time period, Schweitzer said.
Three dozen of the 245 wildfires that were burning in B.C on Thursday were considered either extremely threatening or highly visible, including a 655-square-kilometre fire north of Kamloops Lake that prompted an evacuation order for nearly 300 properties.
There were 28 states of local emergency and more than 60 evacuation orders covering 3,443 properties on Thursday. Nearly 90 evacuation alerts covered 17,679 properties, where residents were told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, said Pader Brach, executive director of regional operations for Emergency Management BC.
The number of daily new fires has subsided this week, Schweitzer said.
Concern over long-term impact of Ontario wildfires
But higher temperatures are expected to contribute to “severe burning conditions” in B.C.’s southern half, he added. The forecast should bring more fresh air to the Interior, he said, fuelling a “short-lived increase in fire growth” but also aiding firefighting efforts by air, which have been hampered by smoky skies.
The service also anticipates some lighting this weekend, Schweitzer said, and crews are standing ready if new fires start.
Environment Canada issued heat warnings stretching across B.C.’s southern Interior, inland sections of the north and central coasts, as well as the south coast and parts of Vancouver Island. The wildfire service warns the combination of high temperatures and low relative humidity will make fires even more intense.
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Northern Canada may be a popular destination at the end of the world – CTV News
In the event of societal collapse, researchers suggest northern Canada may be “habitable” and could act as a lifeboat, but that other countries are better suited for survival.
The researchers found that Earth is in a “perilous state” due to rapid population growth and an energy consuming society that has altered the Earth’s system and biosphere. They say that societal collapse could happen in various forms, including economic collapse, worsening climate catastrophe, a pandemic worse than COVID-19, or another mass extinction event, which the researchers say is already underway.
The goal of the study, published in the journal Sustainability on July 21, was to create a shortlist of nations that could host survivors in the event of a societal collapse, where civilization could start over. The researchers evaluated the land, how much was available and its quality, how easy or difficult it is to travel to the country, available renewable resources, climate and agriculture, to determine where it would be best to survive the end of the world.
Islands with low population density, particularly those with distinct seasonal changes, fared the best with New Zealand topping the list. Iceland, U.K., Australia (specifically Tasmania) and Ireland made up the rest of the shortlist where it would be best for society to restart after a collapse.
Northern Canada, while not on the shortlist, could act as a “lifeboat” in the event of societal collapse due to climate change and extreme temperatures, but survival would rely on maintaining agriculture and renewable energy sources to keep the population alive.
The researchers showed that the shortlisted countries had strong renewable energy sources, were in temperate climates, and have plenty of agricultural land and space for growth. In the case of Iceland, where suitable land for livestock is not in abundance, this downside is offset by fisheries and the island’s wealth of renewable resources, of which geothermal resources have already been widely developed.
While this may give Canadians living in northern regions a chance to breathe a sigh of relief, there are still zombie fires to contend with as climate change warms the north and shortens winters.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world – CBC.ca
Health authorities in Thailand are racing to set up a large field hospital in a cargo building at one of Bangkok’s airports as the country reports record numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths.
Other field hospitals are already in use in the capital after it ran out of hospital facilities for thousands of infected residents. Workers rushed to finish the 1,800-bed hospital at Don Mueang International Airport, where beds made from cardboard box materials are laid out with mattresses and pillows.
The airport has had little use because almost all domestic flights were cancelled two weeks ago. The field hospital is expected to be ready for patients in two weeks.
The quick spread of the delta variant also led neighbouring Cambodia to seal its border with Thailand on Thursday and order a lockdown and movement restrictions in eight provinces.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 196 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 4.1 million deaths had been reported.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Tokyo reported 3,865 new cases on Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday and double the number it had a week ago. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katunobu Kato told reporters the new cases are soaring not only in the Tokyo area but also across the country. He said Japan has never experienced an expansion of infections of this magnitude.
The World Health Organization’s Africa director says the continent of 1.3 billion people is entering an “encouraging phase after a bleak June” as supplies of COVID-19 vaccines increase. But Matshidiso Moeti told reporters on Thursday that just 10 per cent of the doses needed to vaccinate 30 per cent of Africa’s population by the end of 2021 have arrived. Some 82 million doses have arrived in Africa so far, while 820 million are needed.
Less than two per cent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated, and the more infectious delta variant is driving a deadly resurgence of cases.
“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel on vaccine deliveries to Africa but it must not be snuffed out again,” Moeti said.
In the Americas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday that 66.6 per cent of U.S. counties had transmission rates of COVID-19 high enough to warrant indoor masking and should immediately resume the policy.
COVID-19 continues to inflict a devastating toll on the Americas, with Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and Paraguay among the countries with the world’s highest weekly death rates, the Pan American Health Organization said.
In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday reported 33,817 new cases of COVID-19 and 303 additional deaths. The country, which has been hit hard by COVID-19, is experiencing yet another surge in cases.
In Europe, Spain’s prime minister said existing measures to protect the most vulnerable from the pandemic’s economic fallout will be prolonged until the end of October.
Spain, one of the countries that was hardest hit at the beginning of the health emergency, has extended subsidies for the unemployed and furloughs for companies that have gone out of business to try to cushion an economic drop of 11 per cent of its gross domestic product in 2020.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 11:15 a.m. ET
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