Grand Forks observed July 1 with a demonstration of Indigenous healing, followed by a Canada Day parade.
The day started at City Park at around 8:30 a.m. Perhaps 50 people gathered around Victoria Runge, who organized the demonstration on behalf of the Boundary All Nations Aboriginal Council (BANAC). In the crowd were children, elders, Indigenous and Métis people and settlers alike.
Having filed into an orderly procession, the crowd set off along Market Avenue, where they observed a moment of silence for around 1,000 Indigenous children whose remains were recently found in unmarked graves at former Indian residential schools in B.C. and Saskatchewan.
The procession wound its way back to City Park around half an hour later. Microphone in hand, Runge made it plain that neither she nor BANAC had come out to demonstrate against the Canada Day parade assembling across the city. “I’m not here to blame,” she said, adding, “Blame doesn’t solve things: Unity solves things.”
The grisly finds at residential schools form part of generational traumas long recognized by Indigenous peoples nationwide, Grunge explained. “People tend to think we discovered our children — no. We recovered our children. We didn’t discover them,” she said.
The Canada Day parade left the Grand Forks Curling Club on schedule. Lead organizer Beverly Oscahoff said the BC Wildfire Service and Grand Forks Search and Rescue had withdrawn their floats on account of the extreme heat that called them to their duties. Grand Forks Fire/Rescue volunteers were able to attend, bringing with them the department’s vintage fire engine.
The Warriner family’s float was a huge hit with children who braved the heat. Gabe and Rachel Warriner joined a handful of close friends in giving away around 200 stuffed teddy bears and what seemed to be an infinite supply of plastic-wrapped candy.
The parade stopped for a moment of silence in front of Hutton Elementary. Speaking through tears, Osachoff queued the Grand Forks Pipes and Drums Band, who struck up Amazing Grace. “Let’s remember the children who didn’t make it home,” she said.
Grand Forks RCMP escorted the demonstration and the parade. At Runge’s encouragement, many who came out for the morning demonstration also attended the parade.