HRM’s plans to honor Indigenous culture on July 1 a ‘huge step towards reconciliation’

Halifax has announced new plans to celebrate July 1 this year through an approach that honors the Indigenous community.

Kana’ta-HFX Canada Day 2022 is happening after the municipality partnered with the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Center and local Indigenous artists to create a more inclusive event.

The changes come after calls for the cancellation of Canada Day celebrations in 2021 following the discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of residential schools.

“Last year was really a time of mourning for not only Indigenous communities but all of Canada,” said Jesse Benjamin, a fancy shawl dancer who is on the planning committee.

“There has been a lot of thought, reflection and intent moving forward, and that is shown because this is the first of its kind.”

Mawio’mi planned for Halifax Common

A number of events will highlight Indigenous culture, including the Mawio’mi, a Mi’kmaw word for gathering, which will take place at the Halifax Common.

Kana’ta – HFX Canada Day 2022 is the new format for this year’s July 1st celebrations. (Halifax Regional Municipality)

It will be a kind of mini powwow, Benjamin said, where there will be traditional dancing, singing and drumming, in addition to crafts and games.

That’s where Indigenous food will also be available, as well as miniature teepee building.

‘It’s about relationship building’

All of the events are intended to be interactive to give people a chance to learn about Mi’kmaw culture.

“It’s about relationship building, there will be opportunities to ask questions and see things in motion so there will be people there maybe weaving a basket or actually doing the dances,” Benjamin said.

The Indigenous adviser with the Halifax Regional Municipality, Cheryl Copage-Gehue, said the new format is not about canceling Canada Day, but rethinking its focus.

“I think this is a huge step towards reconciliation,” she said. “The more inclusive we can be, the stronger we are as a community.”

Cheryl Copage-Gehue said Kana’ta celebrations will be a huge step for reconciliation. (Cheryl Copage-Gehue)

Copage-Gehue, who is also a councilor with the Sipekne’katik First Nation. said she gathered input from the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs and the Assembly of First Nations.

“Kana’ta really means the village, which means there are multiple little groups of communities within Canada and we should really figure out a way to showcase all of them,” she said.

Traditional July 1 events also scheduled

With that in mind, the African Nova Scotian Music Association will be putting on a concert including a number of artists at the Dartmouth Ferry Terminal Park, while Indigenous performers will be among those on stage at Grand Parade.

Traditional Canada Day events in HRM will continue, like the morning pancake breakfast at Dewolf Park in Bedford and fireworks scheduled to start at 10 pm AT.

The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo will also return with its Canada Day parade.

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