• 50 Sussex Heart Garden. (Photo: Ben Powless)

As the country grieved the discovery of 215 children’s bodies buried on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School in B.C. in May, a group of friends and colleagues around Ottawa came together to create an alternative way to recognize Canada Day: Reimagine Canada Day. Their idea for a reimagining became ever more relevant as more unmarked graves were discovered in June, including more than 700 at the former site of the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.   

The day is intended to give Ottawa’s residents a chance to reflect on and learn more about Canada.

The group, which includes Project of Heart’s Sylvia Smith, has curated a five-stop tour of the city with both digital and in-person components. The tour itinerary includes:

Stop 1

The 50 Sussex Heart Garden at the headquarters of Canadian Geographic and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, established by RCGS employees and local volunteers to honour the 215 children, now includes hearts contributed from across the community as a part of the honouring.

Stop 2

Beechwood Cemetery is the site where Duncan Campbell Scott and Nicholas Flood Davin — both architects of the residential school system — are buried, as well as Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce — early whistleblower on the preventable deaths occurring at residential schools. The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society host walking tours that pass through the cemetery.

Stop 3

At Akikojiwan (Chaudière Falls), Elder Albert Dumont will be teaching about his people and the territory.

Stop 4

At Confederation Park, Jane Hubbard will speak on behalf of the Legacy of Hope Foundation — a national, Indigenous-led, charitable organization that has been working to promote healing and reconciliation in Canada for more than 19 years.

Stop 5

At the University of Ottawa, Lisa Howell and Sylvia Smith will be talking about Project of Heart and the work they are doing.

Alongside the tour, virtual content can be found on the Project of Heart website. The website includes a virtual map and video content allowing anyone interested to participate in a COVID-safe way. 

Participants will also be encouraged to engage in a social justice action for each site, including spreading the word through selfies, social media posts and more.

The following day, July 2, Reimagine Canada Day will be brought to a close with a ceremony conducted by Elder Albert Dumont. The hearts at the 50 Sussex Heart Garden will be taken down and transferred in ceremony to the Children of Shingwauk Survivors Society to be curated at their new centre at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.