Salmon Arm resident raises concerns about one of Salmon Arm’s Rotary club’s Canada Day flag fundraiser, in the wake of unmarked graves of Indigenous children recently being confirmed at Kamloops Indian Residential School and others. (File photo)

Salmon Arm resident raises concerns about one of Salmon Arm’s Rotary club’s Canada Day flag fundraiser, in the wake of unmarked graves of Indigenous children recently being confirmed at Kamloops Indian Residential School and others. (File photo)

Salmon Arm resident calls Rotary Club’s Canada Day flag fundraiser ‘extremely disrespectful’

Noon club said decision to proceed with fundraiser after residential school news was well-considered

A Canadian flag fundraiser by the Rotary Club of Salmon Arm for Canada Day did not evoke any salutes from a Salmon Arm resident, but the club said going ahead with it was a well-considered decision.

Nina Kimmons sent an email to the noon club, one of three Rotary clubs in the city, saying she recently moved to Salmon Arm.

“I have noticed the Canadian flags up around town and am concerned that this causes more harm than good, in light of mourning the deaths of the thousand (and counting) unmarked graves of children across the country. While I understand that this is a traditional fundraiser, I am curious to understand why your organization decided that this is a tradition that should be continued at this sensitive time in our nation’s history. I find that placing Canadian flags (which represent colonialism) and at full mast at that is extremely disrespectful.”

She said, in an effort of reconciliation and making the town a safe place for all to live in, she would like to offer her time and assistance in creating more inclusive options. She said they could include her taking care of lowering the flags to half mast, or putting up a symbol of reconciliation. She also asked if any of the profits from the flag fundraiser were going toward reconciliation or Indigenous communities.

“As an ally, it is important for me to ensure we are moving toward a fair society and country for all,” she wrote.

Patrick Webb, president of the Rotary Club of Salmon Arm, said Kimmons’ concerns were not a surprise. He said many people have expressed a similar view, and not just to his club.

“Our club held extensive discussions about whether or not to do the flag installation for Canada Day,” he said.

The club had purchased Canadian flags and flag poles, which they put up for the Victoria Day weekend, Canada Day, Labour Day and Remembrance Day.

“People give us a donation and we put up a flag at their residence or place of business.”

He said there are just under 400 in the community.

Read more: O’Toole pitches Conservatives as Canada Day defenders as more celebrations cancelled

Read more: Poll: Low-key Canada Day in the works for Vernon

Read more: ‘The truth has been told’: Indigenous leaders call for Canada Day reflection

“In the end we reached the consensus to put the flags up, and give businesses or residences a chance to decline or make their own adjustments.”

Webb said he thinks three residences and one business decided not to put them up. He also said a few chose alternatives like lowering them or putting up orange ribbons.

“The other side is, we also received insistent communication from people that the flags be put up. After they were put up, we also received some emails from people commending us for going ahead with the flags. We were acutely aware, whatever we did decision-wise, would be offensive to some people, and to not do something would be offensive to somebody else.”

Webb said the club also considered comments from Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir from Kamloops (Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc) who he said preferred that people not cancel Canada Day but make it an opportunity to become more aware of the residential schools and children. He said some other Indigenous leaders supported that view.

Kimmons said it would have been more meaningful to hear from local Secwépemc people.

To learn more, Webb said the Rotary Club in Salmon Arm will have an Indigenous speaker, Chersti Dennis, at noon on Monday, July 12 at the Royal Canadian Legion. Webb said if anyone is interested in attending, they can show up, although an email would be appreciated. Contact salmonarmrotary.org@gmail.com.

He said Rotary is non-political and non-religious and exists to improve the lives of people in communities, whether local or international. He said funds raised from any project, including the flag project, go back to the local community, which includes Indigenous families. He said the school lunch program is an example.


martha.wickett@saobserver.net
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