Arviat is planning on throwing a “memorable” celebration to mark Canada Day this year, according to Mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr.
“We are from Canada. We are Canadians, so we are going to celebrate Canada Day,” he told Kivalliq News on June 25.
Savikataaq said the decision to celebrate came after a lengthy discussion with council last week. He said all councillors were in favour of doing something to mark Canada Day, including Peter Alareak, an Elder who is a residential school survivor.
Due to COVID restrictions, Arviat will host radio games with prizes throughout the afternoon.
At 7 p.m. the community will be asked to gather at the hamlet’s flag poles where there will be special ceremony, including performances by local throat singers.
According to Savikataaq, the hamlet, Nunavut and Canada flag will all be lowered an put back up with orange flags on top of them, with the word “honour” written in the territory’s three official languages. Alareak will be the one raising the Canadian flag.
“Instead of working against others we’re honouring what happened before to respect what everyone went through,” he said.
After the flags have been raised, the community will host a parade led by the fire department.
“It will be quite the event. We’re still in the final stage of planning it but it’s going to be quite memorable,” Savikataaq said.
The news comes as other Kivalliq communities have announced they would be either cancelling or scaling back activities this year in solidarity with the growing number of graves being uncovered at former residential schools.
On June 24, Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan located 751 unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school. In May, the remains of 215 children were found in Kamloops.
Rankin Inlet was the first community to announce it was scaling back plans to celebrate, when its local fire department decided to cancel its annual July 1 parade.
On June 23, Chesterfield Inlet followed suit. After meeting to discuss the issue, mayor and council decided it would not be appropriate to celebrate.
“After sober discussion and thought, the Hamlet of Chesterfield Inlet has decided that we will not be observing Canada Day this year,” SAO John Ivey wrote in statement.
The hamlet will also be establishing some type of a monument or memorial site where people can gather or drop off teddy bears and flowers.
Although Whale Cove hasn’t had a council meeting yet this month, Mayor Percy Kabloona said councillors told him they do not want to have a celebration either.
Instead of the usual games on Canada Day, the hamlet will hold a moment of silence for victims and survivors of residential schools.
The hamlet will also hand out free hotdogs and hamburgers on the stat holiday. Kabloona added that the community is keeping its flags at half mast for 215 days, retroactive to May 30 to commemorate the Kamloops’ children’s graves.
“We’re just respecting the memory of the children,” Kabloona said.
Coral Harbour Mayor Willie Nakoolak also told Kivalliq News that council had decided not to hold any games or special events on July 1 out of respect for the families of survivors.
“We thought we should do like all the other Nunavut communities,” said Nakoolak.
As of June 25, Naujaat had not yet made a decision on its Canada Day plans.
“I’m going to ask our Elders what they want and suggest,” said Mayor Allan Robinson.
Kivalliq News was still awaiting comment from Baker Lake on its plans as of press time.
All the communities that are reducing Canada Day celebrations said they planned on reallocating resources for bigger and better Nunavut Day celebrations.