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Canada Day in Wilmot, we must pause and reflect

For Immediate Release 

New Hamburg, ON - June 14th,  2021

My family are people of colour who came to Canada to find a better life and opportunities for their children. My name is Angie Hallman. I am a daughter, I am a wife, I am a mother and I am a first generation Canadian. I have been a proud Canadian all of my life because of the opportunities in this country and the promise of being better than it was the day before.  


Growing up in this community I have watched my childhood peers move on in life in various professions. One went on to join the military to serve and protect life and freedom. One afternoon when *Ethan returned home from Afghanistan and was still wearing his fatigues, my daughter was playing on the front lawn of my parents house. Ethan had not even gone into his parents home yet. He knelt down and un-velcroed his Canadian Flag from the left side of his chest and put it in my daughter's tiny hand. I will never forget this moment, the changed man and the pain I saw in his eyes that day.


There are moments when family and community members experience great loss, and we have no words, we stop, sit, and grieve in silence with them. This simple silent action can convey support in a powerful way that is felt rather than heard.


While Canada Day traditionally brings to mind many reasons to be grateful, for example, to recognize those who  have served to protect our collective rights and freedoms, for cherished time together with family and friends. Yet, there is much work we must do as a nation. This is not the story for everyone on this land.


Growing up in New Hamburg I didn’t learn about the Indigenous people the way that I am now - taking responsibility to educate myself and teach my children about a rich yet painful history of sister nations.  I respect the sister nations of Turtle Island and I am committed to further learning and unlearning where needed.


I acknowledge that the Indigenous community has suffered and continues to suffer and grieve. With respect to this grief that we are all sharing at this moment, the Canada Day in Wilmot committee has canceled in-person and online celebrations for this July 1st. Our committee supports reconciliation and is working toward the direction of the two row wampum. 


Two summers ago I took my children to a Powwow and had a life changing conversation that will stay with me forever. Many would say that the stars aligned or I was in the right place at the right time. I believe that something greater led me to that moment. 


I had an opportunity to share my story with a Chief, about how I am trying to reconcile how I can call myself a proud Canadian and continue to learn the pain and trauma of his people and community.  The Chief's words settled my heart and soul. “You can be proud and I see the turmoil on your soul and I see it in you that you want our two nations to return to the two row wampum. Our people will never celebrate Canada Day and our two nations have to work together and heal for the land's future generations.”


For the first time ever I read a land acknowledgement on Canada Day in 2018. This small step forward is identified in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. This was an imperative first step forward in reconciliation in our community to historically, accurately recognize the traditional First Nations, Metis and Inuit people to honour the original occupants of this land.


This is an imperative time in the lives of Canadian children. They need to be given the tools to learn the history of this land, to feel and express the pain and all of the feelings that go with this time of sorrow in our history. 


Family, children, community and belonging have always been the focus of the local Canada Day event over the last 37 years.  This year, we invite children to a public art experience to decorate a wooden leaf to share with us what they feel, what they see, and what their hopes and dreams are for this shared land we call Turtle Island and Canada. Please visit the Wilmot Rec Complex where there will be bins located outside to pick up or drop off your leaves to decorate and see them on display at 251 Jacob Street New Hamburg. If transportation is an issue, please reach out and we will get some to you while supplies last.


Together, Canadians must do more than just talk about reconciliation; we must learn how to practice reconciliation in our everyday lives - within ourselves and our families, and in our communities, events, governments, places of worship, schools and workplaces. And most importantly for all of our children and future generations.


With thanks to Heritage Canada and the Celebrate Canada Fund along with community donations this project was made possible. 


(noted above: *Ethan's name has been changed to protect his identity)


~ ENDS ~ 

Angie Hallman, 
Canada Day in Wilmot Committee Chair