Canada150+ festivities this summer will include a weeklong festival in the parking lot across from Queen Elizabeth Theatre, a canoe gathering, and a reconciliation walk through Downtown Vancouver, organizers announced Wednesday.
The festivities mark 150 years since confederation but the ‘+’ symbol acknowledges the thousands of years of Indigenous history and the devastation Aboriginal people experienced at the hands of the Canadian government.
That’s why this summer will take both a solemn and celebratory tone, said Rhiannon Bennett, president of the Pulling Together Canoe Society and member of the Musqueam Nation.
“It's really difficult to celebrate occupational removal of the Indigenous people and the genocide that was created so that Canada could be born,” she said.
“But when you put that plus symbol there, it really shifts the whole conversation and acknowledgement of Canada’s history.”
She will be in one of 30 canoes paddling from Sechelt to Vancouver, with a stop in Vanier Park on July 14th for a ceremony and feast. People from First Nations and Public Services Agencies will participate in the 10-day paddle.
The canoe is an important symbol in Coast Salish culture because the Fraser River acted as the region’s “highway”, said Bennett.
“We had canoes for fishing, canoes for travelling, ocean canoes, river canoes. The water is the heart of our territories.”
“[Canada150+] presents an opportunity to present a direct tie between human beings,” said artistic director Margo Kane, referring to those who want to raise awareness of the generational trauma of residential schools and those who want to celebrate Canada’s birthday.
The second signature event for Canada150+ is The Drum Is Calling Festival from July 22 to 30 at Larwill Park. There will be performances from award-winning artists, food, and workshops on carving, and weaving.
The third event, A Walk For Reconciliation, will happen Sept. 24. Organizers say more than 75,000 people participated in the previous reconciliation walk, four years ago.
This year’s walk through downtown Vancouver will act as an opportunity for people to learn more about reconciliation.
“Let’s walk together to create a new way forward,” said Shelley Joseph, with Reconciliation Canada.
The City of Vancouver received $2.3 million from the federal government to host Canada150+ events.