Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) is not celebrating Canada Day again this year.
The band council has declared July 1, 2022, an official Day of Mourning for the second consecutive year. Chief Mervin Cheechoo is calling on Moose Factory and Moosonee residents to also use the day to engage in acts of remembrance to honour the lives lost through residential schools.
Last year, the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across Canada sparked calls to ‘cancel’ Canada Day celebrations.
"Over the past year these sad discoveries continued to be made at the grounds of many former residential schools across Canada, and will likely continue to be made in the months ahead," said Cheechoo in a statement.
These incidents, the chief said, are still having a 'triggering effect' on many people, especially survivors and inter-generational survivors.
"The council has determined that it is inappropriate for MCFN to officially celebrate Canada Day again this year given that the results of the destructive policies of the federal government that were enacted for decades are being made so glaringly evident in the horrifying discoveries of these mass unmarked graves of children," he said.
In Ontario, there are 18 known residential school sites, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).
The TRC identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario and estimated that at least 426 children who attended residential schools in Ontario are known to have died.
The residential school closest to Timmins was Chapleau Indian Residential School. On the James Bay coast, there were residential schools in Fort Albany and Moose Factory.
Cheechoo's statement further said that "discussions are also continuing on the possibility of having a search done at the grounds of former residential school in Moose Factory Island. However, since these topics are very sensitive, any such plans would be developed with the membership, particularly the survivors."
Since the topic may have a triggering effect, people who need help can reach out to the MCFN Health and Wellness team. For assistance, members can call 705-658-4619 ext. 256.
A 24-hour residential school crisis line to support former students and their families can be accessed at 1-866-925-4419.