Canada Day in Princeton will be celebrated quietly and with meaning this year, according to Mayor Spencer Coyne.
On July 1 the town will plant a birch tree in front of town hall, as a memorial to the 215 Indigenous children found buried in a mass grave near a former residential school in Kamloops.
“Through the research we’ve done we found that in some cultures birch trees can represent truth. When looking at the symbolism of the birch tree and its definition we thought that was a fitting memorial for the residential school situation,” said the mayor.
Coyne, who is Indigenous, has invited the Upper Similkameen Indian Band and the Vermilion Forks Metis Association to attend the ceremony, which will be live streamed on the municipality’s Facebook page.
Later a plaque will be added. “There will be some kind of signage but it won’t be ready for Canada Day.”
Several ideas were put forward in the past month, on ways to commemorate the atrocities at residential schools.
“It has to be meaningful. I understand everybody wants to reach out and do something right now. The Indigenous community has asked us to listen and that’s all that we need to do,” Coyne said.
“The natural resource department at the Band and I worked on this together. This wasn’t taken lightly, let’s put it that way.”
One idea floated locally on social media was the creation of a ‘feather’ crosswalk, said Coyne.
“The crosswalk idea is a great gesture but it’s not something that lasts and we want something that will endure. A tree will be forever. I feel it’s more meaningful…there is no paint that’s permanent.”
Otherwise most traditional Canada Day events have been cancelled for 2021, but that is a result of COVID and not residential schools, said Coyne. Some B.C. communities, he acknowledged, have cancelled Canada Day in response to that situation.
“Something to remember about Canada Day, as bad as some of this history is that Canada has been involved in, there has also been good.”
Specifically he credits the country with opening its borders to refugees. “They came here for salvation and safety. Just to say ‘forget about everything,’ in my opinion, is a knee jerk reaction.”
Neither residential schools nor Canada’s birthday “should be politicized,” he added.
“People who are going to politicize are doing it for their own gain and I don’t feel that’s right.”
On Friday, July 2, the town will host a free swim at Centennial Pool, from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
The Abbotsford Youth Orchestra will perform in Veterans Square Monday June 28 at 8 p.m.
The usual outdoor movie night is also a go for Sunday, June 27, across from Princeton Secondary School. Up to 50 cars will be admitted, on a first come first served basis beginning at 7 p.m. The Disney film Raya and the Last Dragon starts at 8 p.m.
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