Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday that work is under way with Indigenous communities on how to go about raising the Canadian flag for Remembrance Day, and he is confident a solution can be reached.
Flags on government of Canada buildings have been at half-mast for several months to honour former residential school students. In Glasgow at a summit on climate change, Mr. Trudeau said Canadians, including Indigenous peoples, want to be able to remember and honour those who gave their lives for their country.
“We continue to work very closely with partners, with Indigenous peoples, with communities across the country,” he said.
On Nov. 11, flags traditionally are lowered to half-mast at 10:30 a.m. until 11:02 a.m., and then raised to full-mast for the rest of the day.
“There is an understanding of how important it is to be able to lower the flags on Remembrance Day to mark our veterans, to mark people, including Indigenous peoples, who’ve stepped up to fight for Canadian values and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Mr. Trudeau said.
At the end of May, Mr. Trudeau said the flags would fly at half-mast until further notice to honour the children who died at the former Kamloops residential school, as well as other residential school survivors and families. Findings of unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools such as Kamloops and Marieval have touched off commemorations for children who never returned home from the government-funded, church-run institutions.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued a report after six years of study detailing abuse at the schools. Its chair, Murray Sinclair, also said thousands died at them.
During the election campaign, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole called for the flag to be raised after Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, although some Indigenous leaders criticized his proposal. Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Derek Fox said he would love to see the flags raised, but not until there was something to celebrate.
Mr. O’Toole said Tuesday on Twitter that lowering the flag to recognize “our tragic history of residential schools was the right thing to do.” But he said that as Canada approaches Remembrance Day, the flag needs to be raised so the country can honour veterans and “remember the sacrifices of those who fought for our freedoms.”
In response to a query about Mr. O’Toole’s comments, Cameron McNeill, a press secretary for Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay, said the flag is at half-mast to honour the victims and survivors of the Canadian residential school system, and it would be raised on a date to be determined by Canadian officials and Indigenous communities.
Lynne Groulx, chief executive officer of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, said a way must be found to honour veterans on Remembrance Day with traditional flag-related ceremonies that also honours and respects the children who died at residential schools.
NDP veterans affairs critic Rachel Blaney said in an interview that it is important the government explain to people that the flags are lowered to recognize the children who were buried near former residential schools and the ones who went missing. She said she has spoken to Indigenous leaders and Indigenous veterans, as well as representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion, and they all want to see a “respectful recognition” of veterans on Remembrance Day.
On Friday, the Legion said it planned to raise the flag at the National War Memorial in Ottawa before the Remembrance Day ceremony and then return it to half-mast. Spokesperson Nujma Bond said the Legion controls the site and the two flags, and it would follow Legion protocol.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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