On July 1st every year communities across Canada celebrate Canada Day. We mark the 1867 Confederation of former British colonies into the new nation of Canada. People celebrate with backyard barbecues, parades, concerts, and lots of fireworks. Canadian flags are proudly displayed on houses and cars; we even paint our kid’s faces with the Maple Leaf. There’s much to celebrate about our nation.
“I hate, I despise your festivals…
Take away from me the noise of your songs;…
But let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” —Amos 5:21-24
This spring, 215 unmarked graves of children were discovered at Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia and 751 unmarked graves at Marieval Residential School in Saskatchewan. These unmarked mass graves are part of the painful legacy of Indian Residential Schools in Canada. These and many more were operated by churches at the request of the Canadian government for more than 100 years. You can read more about our church’s journey at presbyterian.ca/healing
We expect more similar discoveries as traditional knowledge keepers share stories of similar sites across Canada. Or rather, as more non-Indigenous people truly listen to and hear these stories.
Some communities have decided to not celebrate Canada Day this year as a visible sign of honour and lament. One network of radio stations aired recordings of survivors personal accounts of tragedy and trauma.
As Christians, as followers of the crucified, suffering, and risen Christ we hold celebration and lament together in tension—celebration at what our life-giving and liberating God is doing in the world, and lament over our own and our ancestors sins no matter when we settled in this land. With thanksgiving and humility we join in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation.
— Rev. Matthew Sams
Minister at Willowdale Presbyterian Church