By: Mike Anderson
Despite calls to cancel the event, York-Simcoe MP Scot Davidson’s Canada Day drive-thru took place on July 1, attracting hundreds of vehicles at The ROC.
According to Davidson, his constituency office had received several emails asking him to cancel, as #CancelCanadaDay, sparked by the recent discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves at three former residential schools, gained traction on social media.
Patrick Meyer, seeking the Green Party candidacy for York-Simcoe, had also called for a boycott of the event on Facebook.
However, Davidson says he was glad he didn’t cancel the event, believing that a day reserved for celebration could also be used for reflection.
“It’s important that we celebrate Canada Day,” said Davidson.
“This is a tough year for Canadians. There’s an open wound now because of some of the dark things that have happened in our past.”
“I spoke with Chief Donna Big Canoe and councillor Bill McCue and told them what I was doing. And they are very supportive. They said we have to get around the fire together and build that trust again. And I think that is the important message that I am trying to put out here.”
While residents in their vehicles were treated to a free BBQ, giveaways, live music and a flypast by an RCAF CC-130 Hercules, they also received copies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s “Calls-to-Action,” many of which have yet to be implemented, six years after the report was tabled.
Volunteers wore orange shirts with the message ‘Every Child Matters,’ and lawn signs with the same message were mixed in with Happy Canada Day signs.
Davidson was joined by his wife Suzanne Howes, who, together with another band member from Georgina Island, gave out orange ribbons in remembrance of the lost Indigenous children.
Mayor Margaret Quirk and councillors Mike Waddington and Dave Harding were also on hand to lend their support and give out gift bags from the Town of Georgina.
“Whether you want to boycott Canada Day, that’s entirely your own choice. But I really hope people take a moment to reflect and to understand what Canada Day means to the Indigenous community,” said Mayor Quirk, who wants to see more awareness education and training for Town staff on Indigenous issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools.
“We’re not a perfect nation. There are things that we’ve done in the past that were wrong. So I think it’s time that we all learn more, acknowledge what was wrong, and start that reconciliation.”
Many at the event echoed the Mayor’s sentiments.
“While we always celebrate Canada Day, I understand this year is different. I think it’s important to recognize all aspects of our history. And share the awareness with others in our community,” said Keswick resident Stacey Holliday, who was first in line for the drive-thru along with her family.
“I love that when we were pulling in, we saw all the orange shirts. I thought that was a great way to incorporate everything all in one.”
John Bailey, the owner of Bailey’s Homestead Restaurant, who was prepared to BBQ more than 800 hamburgers for the event, was also glad it was going forward.
“I think Canada Day should be about everybody coming together, everybody learning and celebrating the good, but understanding the bad,” said Bailey.
“With a platform like Canada Day, everybody should be able to be aware of it. Every child does matter.”
The Connors Brothers were also grateful for the chance to play to a live crowd – their first since the pandemic began – even if most people were in their cars.
“Canada Day has always been a big event for our band. We appreciate the opportunity to celebrate our country, but also what Scot has done with this particular event, the way he’s recognized everyone in the community, makes us feel really good,” said John Connor.
“Recognizing the suffering that Indigenous people are going through and have been going through in our history is really important and a great part of what today is all about.”
While most felt it was a good idea to acknowledge the history of residential schools during Canada Day, many didn’t want to see Canada Day cancelled because of it.
“It’s disappointing that all of that happened. But it still doesn’t make me feel any different toward the country. Mistakes were made, and it should never have happened, but we can’t go back and change it,” said Jennifer Richardson from Jackson’s Point.
“I don’t think Canada Day should be dismissed as a result of it. But it’s important that they both be recognized.”