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Woolwich incorporates Indigenous awareness into this year’s Canada Day celebration

Woolwich Township cancels large gatherings in favour of smaller activities aimed at educating participants about Indigenous issues.

While some communities like Wilmot Township have decided to cancel Canada Day activities altogether, Woolwich is taking a different route. Incorporating educational activities related to Indigenous issues, the township plans to promote the calls to action put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015.

“It feels inappropriate to celebrate as we normally would in light of the discovery of the remains of 215 students buried on the site of a former Kamloops Indian Residential School and the ongoing discoveries across Canada,” said Marie Malcolm, community programs and inclusion coordinator for Woolwich Township. “So this year we are looking at incorporating a little bit more reflection and remembrance components to our Canada Day celebrations.”

Woolwich Coun. Scott McMillan echoed that sentiment in discussing the importance of remembering the impact of the Indigenous community.

“It’s important for Canada Day, when we’re celebrating the foundation of our country, that we realize that foundation is built around [the] oppression and genocide of Indigenous people,” said McMillan. “[Canada Day] demands of us that we acknowledge the past and, and seek to learn the truth of our history with Indigenous people here in Canada.”

One of the ways to promote Indigenous culture and artists is through a book featured in their storybook walks. Happening in Breslau, Elmira and St. Jacobs, the storybook walk is an opportunity for families to explore the pages of picture books mounted to storyboard signs along trails and park spaces.

The choice for Elmira’s storybook walk is an empowering Indigenous twist on a classic wolf narrative, ‘The Girl and the Wolf’ written by Katherena Vermette, a Red River Métis (Michif) writer from Treaty 1 territory.

“It’s a phenomenal picture book,” explained Malcolm. “Readers are able to get a message and enjoy the characters of Indigenous First Nations that nourished traditional ways of knowing.”

The Indigenous-focused book at one of the walks is not the only way Woolwich Township is putting a focus on Indigenous culture this Canada Day. There are educational resources posted on the township’s website, which contains the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. The document, published in 2015 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, brings forth 94 “calls to action” that urge all levels of government to work together to change policies and programs to repair the harm caused by residential schools and move forward with reconciliation.

“There is an attachment to that document for residents to review and educate [themselves] and just learn more about [Indigenous issues],” said Malcolm.

The township also hopes its community will lend support to Indigenous organizations in the region. Donation links to both Healing of the Seven Generations and Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence campaign can be found on the township’s stay active page.

“Those organizations do remarkable work with providing education and resources [to] anyone looking,” said Malcolm. “So those are two organizations that we were focusing on within our area to support.”

Malcolm said she hopes that this Canada Day will be one that promotes inclusion and education. While the country grapples with the emergence of its wrongdoings, it provides an opportunity for its citizens to better understand one another and the challenges and trauma community members face.

“It’s an ongoing education component that all of us as Canadians need to continue to learn and also reflect about,” said Malcolm. “[It’s] an opportunity to learn more and seek out local organizations to see how you could contribute to creating more of a wholesome and educated awareness of a wide variety of different cultures within our community.”

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