July 1 began with a downpour that may have dampened some spirits, but for those who attended events and ceremonies in Ladysmith and Chemainus, there were plenty of uplifting moments that more than made up for the grey skies.
In keeping with tradition Chemainus made Canada Day a festive family affair. Held at Waterwheel Square – possibly the most used patch of park on Vancouver Island – right in the centre of town, the event was given over mostly to face-painting, fire engine tours, romping on stage, and general kid-focused fun.
But the highlight for many was the welcoming words of Elder Florence James on behalf of the Penelakut First Nation. A more gracious introduction to some of the traditional words and places of the Penelakuts’ ancestral home could not have been asked for. Many of her Non-aboriginal listeners would also have taken heart and felt hopeful at her generous and wise description of Canada (or Kanata in the original Iroquian) as a place of the people and – despite its problems – a beautiful country.
In Ladysmith people seemed a bit more discouraged by the weather, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the musicians and speakers who braved the elements, or lessen the enthusiasm of the participants for a slice of the traditional flag-iced birthday cake.
Mayor Aaron Stone announced the official dedication of an installation of five historical ‘pictorial’ plaques at the entrance to Transfer Beach, which provide a thumbnail sketch of the 118 years of Non-aboriginal and 5,000 years of First Nations history around Ladysmith Harbour.
Again, though, the highlight was the First Nations words of welcome, this time from Stz’uminus Chief John Elliott, who said we can work together to build a strong community, and that the Stz’uminus “will definitely be here to celebrate with you in the future.”