Reconciliation, celebration, and community are the three pillars of Bowen’s 2022 Canada Day lineup of events, set for Friday at Bowen Island Community School.
“It’s always been a big deal on the island, there’s always been a very celebratory Canada Day festival,” says Kat Stephens, recreation and community services advisor with Bowen Island Community Recreation (BICR), who organizes the event. Prior to the pandemic she says the day had taken on a Bowfest-like atmosphere, and over the years migrated from BICS to Crippen Park as it became more popular.
Following a subdued 2020 Canada Day – in the absence of any gatherings BICR instead made a video honouring local first responders – it remained to be seen how the 2021 version would play out. But following the discovery of 200 gravesites at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in May, and thousands more across the country since, the decision was made to take a new approach to July 1.
“Such a somber awakening really underscores the urgency to take reconciliation seriously and really respond to the Truth and Reconciliation calls,” says Stephens.
The group set out to accomplish this and their research brought them to the 2017 movie Indian Horse, depicting the story of a residential school survivor. Accompanying the film – and lining up with Canada’s 150th anniversary – was the “Next 150 Challenge”, a series of activities designed to educate people on the importance of reconciliation.
The challenges are developed by Indigenous community members, and can involve anything from making Bannock, to consuming different types of media, or even examining how internet speeds differ across the country.
“The past 150 years of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples has been characterized by broken promises, mistreatment and misunderstanding,” reads the beginning of the Next 150 Challenge. Stephens says the goal now is “to make the next 150 years better, more orientated toward reconciliation, more collaborative, just have people engage more.”
More challenging and long-term Next 150 calls exist too. “There’s some other really complex challenges that require a lot more work. Like decolonizing your spaces and actually reading and sitting with all of the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. So there’s different levels,” explains Stephens.
BICR began adoption of Next 150 last year with the ‘Decolonize Now, Celebrate Later’ challenge. Throughout July signs were put up in Quarry Park inviting people to take a self-guided walking tour to learn more about the land we live on, develop a better appreciation for it, and discover the different ways it’s meaningful to people.
Many opportunities to support reconciliation at Canada Day Reimagined
This year, the walk is one of many Next 150 challenges taking place. The “culturally and ecologically informed walk” will start from BICS and head into the surrounding woods. There will be two during the day.
Other Next 150 activities will include a Bannock making station, several Inuit games, and a decolonized landscape initiative focusing on how to identify and remove invasive species from a landscape.
“There’s a great mix and a good balance, there’s something for every age group, every ability level, and really every level of engagement with reconciliation. There’s just something there for everyone,” says Stephens.
Another important stop at Canada Day Reimagined will be the Project Hummingbird station. Part of the challenge to commit to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, people will have the chance to silkscreen their own hummingbird fabric.
This idea was inspired by the book Flight of the Hummingbird, by Haida author Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. Boweners Meribeth Deen, Brenda Morrison and Gail Lotenberg – working with Yahgulanaas – felt the story’s message had direct ties to the work needed to achieve meaningful reconciliation.
“It takes courage to turn around and face the fire and make an effort, even if it feels inconsequential. Every bit matters,” explains Stephens of the book’s theme and how it connects to actions we can take today. “It doesn’t matter where you start, it just matters that you try, and then where you get to.”
Participants in Project Hummingbird will have the chance to place a hummingbird on orange pieces of fabric. They can also examine printed versions of the Calls to Action. “People can familiarize themselves with them and really understand what they’re asking and what they need. Then the challenge there is that people are encouraged to pick one, and commit to it for the year. And then check in again next July 1,” says Stephens.
There will be several traditional Canada Day stations too, including Canadian trivia, sports, and other “doses of Canadiana.”
“We recognize that people do want to do a bit of both… so we wanted to make sure it was a nice balance of reconciliation and celebration and community. We’re really centering those three core values in it,” explains Stephens.
Music, crafts, face-painting, art, vendors and more will also be spread around the school. Community connection tables will be featured too.
“We’re looking for people to engage with each other a little more as we come out of the pandemic,” says Stephens.
Canada Day Reimagined takes place this Friday, July 1 at BICS, from 10 am to 1 pm. Click here for the full schedule.