After Lakes District News posted a story on Facebook about Burns Lake combining two of its main parades – National Aboriginal Day and Canada Day – several residents expressed their disapproval over that decision.
As an editor, I honestly did not think this story was going to be controversial, so I was surprised by the repercussion after we published the story.
In fact, when I first heard about it, combining the two parades seemed like a great idea from a logistical standpoint, and also taking into account the challenges that we have in Burns Lake. It is no secret that the Canada Day parade was cancelled last year due to a lack of volunteers. This was mainly due to Canada Day falling on a Friday, which meant that many people were out of town for the long weekend.
With the parade being held on a week day, some people won’t be able to attend because they’ll be at work. However, this also means that more people will be in town to watch and support the event.
Also keep in mind that holding a major event such as a parade – specially when it is supposed to be held on Hwy. 16 – involves blocking traffic, dozens of volunteers and hard work. So it’s understandable that a decision was made to combine the two parades. It’s also hard to deny that the intention of “strengthening community unity” is pretty honourable.
But even though combining two parades presents benefits for Burns Lake, when I think about it from a broader perspective, I start to question if it actually does make sense.
For example, some First Nations may not want to celebrate a country that took their lands away and colonized their people. The National Aboriginal Day was created to celebrate the heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of Aboriginal Peoples. As Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam told Lakes District News, “There is unfinished business of Canada reconciling with First Nations.”
On the other hand, some people feel that since this will be Canada’s 150th birthday, changing the parade’s date could in fact diminish the importance of this celebration.
So by combining these two parades – which have distinct purposes – could we be doing a disservice to both celebrations?
My personal opinion is that Burns Lake is a unique town where almost half of its population is aboriginal. If combining the two parades could help strengthen relations between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Burns Lake, then I can’t think of a better reason to do it.
Maybe coming together to celebrate two very important dates could not only help heal old wounds and strengthen local relations, but it could even serve as an example for the rest of the country.
Besides, Canada Day will still be celebrated on July 1 at Spirit Square in Burns Lake.