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La Ronge tri-communities cancel Canada Day celebrations

A northern Saskatchewan hub has decided to scrap its Canada Day celebrations in favour of National Indigenous Peoples Day.
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A northern Saskatchewan hub has decided to scrap its Canada Day celebrations in favour of National Indigenous Peoples Day.

The communities of Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB), Air Ronge and La Ronge have jointly decided to cancel Canada Day in light of the unmarked graves found at residential school sites in B.C., Manitoba and Saskatchewan. They'll instead focus their efforts on National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, a Wednesday news release said.

"(We'll) use cancelling the events as an opportunity to think of our history, think what we can do better and what we can do moving forward," La Ronge Mayor Colin Ratushniak said.

"With us being on Treaty 6 territory, we have to recognize what Canada was built on. This, in my opinion, is a very appropriate way to do that."

The decision came at the request of a community member, whose suggestion then went before LLRIB council, Ratushniak said.

LLRIB Chief Tammy Cook-Searson did not respond to requests for comment by press time. The First Nation has previously said it plans to search a residential school site in La Ronge using ground-penetrating radar.

The local National Indigenous Peoples Day events will include a pipe ceremony, a smudge walk and parade from the band office to the downtown La Ronge urban reserve, and Woodland Cree cultural and traditional events like moose calling and trapper activities, storytelling and M├ętis culture sharing. There will also be a walk-in COVID-19 vaccine tent clinic, a joint communities statement said.

The decision to cancel Canada Day events follows Victoria, B.C. recently pulling its events, and similar calls to do the same in other cities.

"With everything that's surfacing and coming to light about not only our province's dark history, but Canada's dark history, it's time that we acknowledge the wrongdoing," Air Ronge Mayor Julie Baschuk said.

"I think our community is showing how strong we are as a region, and that people are supporting this stance that we've taken."

Resources are available for survivors and those seeking emotional support in the wake of recent events. The toll-free, 24-hour Indian Residential School Crisis Line is 1-866-925-4419.