And how a Burnaby gurdwara is approaching reconciliation
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Good morning, Burnaby.

There's been a lot of conversation around Canada Day, and how we should have marked it yesterday. For me personally, I find it hard to reconcile the idea of repeated, horrific discoveries at the sites of former residential "schools"—which were, of course, designed to subjugate and suppress children and their families for the simple crime of being Indigenous—with fireworks and parties celebrating the state that committed and perpetrated those acts.

University of Manitoba historian Sean Carleton summed it up quite succinctly on Twitter: "I see some confusion re: the relationship between residential schools and "Canada Day," so as a historian let me clarify: residential schools were developed and defended by Canada as part of its strategy of colonization + nation-building; Canada and the schools are intertwined."

Some people may not see the value in "cancelling" Canada Day. But at the very least, in the face of this news that Indigenous people have been saying for decades, I think it's a day to reflect on who we are and what we did to get here.

Srushti Gangdev, reporter

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BC's chief coroner Lisa Lapointe in 2019. 📷 Province of BC / Flickr
Coroner investigating nearly 500 sudden deaths during height of heat wave; 52 were in Burnaby
The number of deaths was 195% above what would be normally expected in that time period, and it's believed the heat significantly contributed

A staggering 486 sudden and unexpected deaths were reported in BC during the extreme heat wave between Friday and Wednesday afternoon, says the BC Coroners Service.

That’s a 195% increase from the approximately 165 deaths that would normally be expected during a 5-day period, and the number is expected to grow as additional data is received.

At least 52 of those sudden deaths were reported in Burnaby, RCMP said—48 between Monday and Tuesday, and 4 before noon on Wednesday.

While the cause of death must be determined for each individual instance, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said Wednesday that the extreme heat was believed to be behind the significant increase in death.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth faced questions Wednesday about whether the province did enough to prepare, after forecasts came in days earlier that temperatures would skyrocket to ranges 20 degrees above what’s normal for this time of year.

The questions from reporters were particularly pointed after comments Tuesday afternoon from Premier John Horgan, who said there was a "level of personal responsibility" to be taken by British Columbians in dealing with the extreme heat.

When asked whether his government fulfilled its personal responsibility of keeping people safe, Farnworth said the province had reached out to local governments "to inform them of the services and the supports that are available from the province in terms of the financial supports, in terms of keeping cooling centres and civic facilities open, in terms of additional supports for fire to respond to calls, for example."

"And in the case of the City of Vancouver, putting out the heat alert that was in place, along with guidance on what needs to happen and how people should deal with these events. So that was put in place on Friday, before the weekend. But what we have seen here is absolutely unprecedented."

Farnworth said before last weekend, BC had reported only 3 heat-related deaths in the past 5 years.

He also acknowledged that there had been a significant strain put on first responders as they struggled through record call volumes.

Ambulance wait times hit upwards of 2 hours over the weekend in parts of the Lower Mainland—and as Vancouver Is Awesome reported, firefighters waited for an ambulance for an elderly patient suffering from heat exhaustion for 11 hours.

Burnaby Fire Chief Chris Bowcock told the Beacon there were likewise delays for paramedics in this city.

Bowcock said he expected call volumes to be higher than normal based on the weather forecasts, so the department was fully staffed over the weekend and able to respond to all calls it received.

"We also assisted in several events in adjacent communities, where their fire departments were taxed and not able to respond," he said.

But there were several calls Burnaby firefighters responded to, many of them life-threatening calls involving cardiac events, where paramedics were delayed or unavailable.

"We responded to many calls where an ambulance wasn't assigned or wasn't able to be assigned to where we were on scene with patients for significant periods of time. Other agencies in the region changed their level of service and only dealt with the most significant events, or the events with the most risk to life safety," Bowcock said.

"No call went unmanaged [in Burnaby]. It was definitely a very taxing time for our fire department, our people worked very hard."

Part of the problem has been attributed to a long-standing shortage of paramedics, along with the record high call volumes.

Farnworth told reporters the Ministry of Health was already working to address that problem.

"I can tell you that in the fall, they hired an additional 200 ambulance paramedics, and later this summer, they will be hiring significant numbers more. So they are working very hard and have invested significant amounts of money and resources in addressing this situation."

The coroners service will also be releasing a report in the coming months, with recommendations for the province to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Lapointe said before they can release any recommendations, they have to interview subject matter experts, look at other jurisdictions, and analyze their data for any patterns or trends.

Anecdotally, she said many of the deaths in BC over the past weekend were in older people who lived alone, often in apartments, and many of whom had underlying health conditions.

"As we continue to experience unusually high temperatures in the province, it’s very important that we look out for our family, friends, and neighbours, particularly those who live alone. People can be overcome by the effects of extreme heat quickly and not be aware," Lapointe said.

"Please arrange regular check-ins for those who live alone and may not be aware of the danger … and encourage everyone you know to drink water."

—By Srushti Gangdev

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Harjinder Jassal, assistant secretary at Burnaby’s Shri Guru Ravidas Sabha Gurdwara 📷 Supplied
Burnaby gurdwara working to create awareness about Indigenous history with congregation
Burnaby’s Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha Gurdwara held an event this week to acknowledge and discuss the impact of residential "schools" amid the tragic discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves

Places of worship are dedicated spaces for folks to pray, attend religious ceremonies, and give back to the community. They’re not often thought of as places where conversations around Canada’s colonial history, Indigenous history, and the tragic impact of residential "schools" take place, but Burnaby’s Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha Gurdwara is trying to change that.

Earlier this week, the gurdwara held an event to recognize, honour, and create awareness around Indigenous history in the wake of hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children being discovered at former residential "school" sites across Canada.

Harjinder Jassal, assistant secretary of the temple located on Gilley St, led the event this week.

"We had a meeting with our board of directors ... and we decided, ‘So June month is month to honour our First Nations people, so why don’t we take a step to at least address this genocide,’" he said. "So this was a planned genocide to keep the people from their motherland, mother language, culture, and the same period of time we people started immigrating to this uninvited land," he said.

Jassal told the Beacon that the Ravidassia religious group has also experienced mistreatment and persecution in India, which he hopes will foster a deeper understanding when it comes to the plight of Indigenous people and intergenerational trauma they have experienced due to colonialism.

During the event, Jassal and other members of the gurdwara spoke about the recent discoveries of the unmarked graves, the impacts residential "schools" had on Indigenous people and how members of the congregation can be allies to Indigenous communities.

On Wednesday, the Lower Kootenay Band of the Ktunaxa First Nation in BC’s South Interior announced the preliminary findings of 182 unmarked graves at the St. Eugene's Mission "School."

Last week, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced a preliminary finding of the unmarked graves of 751 Indigenous children at a cemetery located near the former Marieval Indian Residential "School."

Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced the remains of 215 children were found at a burial site near the former Kamloops Indian Residential "School" in early June.

There are still thousands of unmarked graves across the country that have not been identified.

Jassal said that he learned about Indigenous history and residential schools from his daughter who is a high school student. This prompted him to do his own research.

"My daughter, she helped me find out when did it happen, how did it happen," he said.

"The knowledge she gave me about the First Nations was tremendous. That is what I addressed in my speech. I said, ‘So the First Nation history right now is taught in the schools but we as adults we should know.’"

Moving forward, Jassal said the gurdwara is committed to continuing on a path of understanding and allyship with Indigenous Peoples with plans on including a float in its Nagar Kirtan parade dedicated to Indigenous history and communities, as well as reaching out to First Nations in the area to see how they can further their support.

"We will take a lead role with other community organizations to build a bridge between the South Asian community and the First Nations communities," noted Jassal.

—By Simran Singh


☀️ Burnaby cooling centres open until end of day today: Cooling centres set up by the City of Burnaby at Bob Prittie Metrotown Library, McGill Library, and Edmonds Community Centre will stay open until 7pm today. Temperatures are still expected to hit the mid-20s daily. If you need some refuge from the sun, you can find water, seating, and washrooms at the cooling centres. You can also head to one of the city's libraries, or find drinking water fountains at most parks.

➖ Another tragic discovery at a former BC residential "school" site: The Lower Kootenay Band said Wednesday that it's confirmed the discovery of 182 human remains through ground-penetrating radar at the former site of St. Eugene's Mission Residential "School" in Cranbrook. Thousands of Indigenous children attended that "school," which was in operation for 60 years between 1910 and 1970. The news comes after similar discoveries of 215 and 751 unmarked graves at the Kamloops and Marieval (Sask.) residential "schools." The conversation around Canada's ongoing legacy of genocide and atrocities against Indigenous people prompted many cities, including Burnaby, to put Canada Day celebrations on hold. If you're struggling with news about former residential schools, call the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.

🗳️ Burnaby byelection results made official: Chief elections officer Nikolina Vracar officially certified the results of last weekend's municipal byelection on Wednesday, to confirm that Alison Gu and Mike Hillman have been elected to council. The pair were elected to fill 2 seats left vacant after former councillors Nick Volkow and Paul McDonnell passed away last year. Gu and Hillman will sit on council until the next general election on Oct 15, 2022. Turnout for the byelection was a measly 8.36% with 13,518 ballots cast—compare that to the 33.46% of Burnaby residents who voted in 2018's local election.

🚒 Burnaby firefighters travel to Lytton to assist with emergency fire response: On Thursday, Deputy Chief Dave Samson tweeted the fire crew would be working with crews from around the province to help with the devastating blaze that has reportedly destroyed 90% of the small Fraser Canyon town. An engine and 6 Burnaby firefighters were deployed to Lytton over the weekend, as reported by the Burnaby Now. The fire started on Wednesday and residents raced to evacuate as flames engulfed homes and buildings. At least 2 people have died and crews are now searching for injured and missing residents.
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Tsleil-Waututh elder Coleen Thomas and her nephew, William, took part in a Canada Day video with the City of Burnaby, marking the day as one of solemn reflection, rather than of celebration. 📷 City of Burnaby / Facebook
A Canada Day like no other
It was a solemn day for reflection, as Indigenous communities across Canada uncover unmarked graves of children at the sites of former residential "schools"

Warning: This story contains details around the Canadian residential "school" system, which some may find distressing. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society has a 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-925-4419.

The City of Burnaby declined to hold any events, virtual or otherwise, for Canada Day this year—instead opting to mark the day with solemn reflection.

No official fireworks lit up the skies, nor did any city-sanctioned live music or events fill the Edmonds Community Centre, Burnaby Village Museum, and Swangard Stadium, as they do most years.

Even the virtual events, intended to offer a historical look at the country, were cancelled, the city opting instead to put out a video on Facebook.

"We should take a moment to think about what it means to be a Canadian," Mayor Mike Hurley said in the video.

Carleen Thomas, an elder with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, along with her nephew, offered their own greetings in the video.

"I'm a little conflicted being here today to celebrate this Canada Day," Thomas said, pointing to the discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential "schools."

Well over 1,000 human remains at unmarked graves—many of which were children—have been uncovered at the sites of former residential "schools" in BC and elsewhere.

The issue has been at the fore of the public dialogue for the last month or so, after the remains of 215 children were found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential "School," after the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation paid for ground-penetrating radar work at the site.

After that, discoveries continued, including 751 human remains found by the Cowessess First Nation at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential "School."

Another 182 remains were announced earlier this week at the former site of St. Eugene's Mission Residential "School" in Cranbrook.

Thousands more are expected to be uncovered.

The finds have spurred conversations around the horrors of colonialism in this country and the genocide of Indigenous Peoples by settler institutions—particularly the various levels of Canadian governments and the Catholic Church, which ran many of the residential "schools."

"I think it's important to talk about, today, the work that has to be done in repairing that relationship between Indigenous Peoples of this great country and Canada," Thomson said. "There are systems in place that oppress the Indigenous Peoples of this land. There is a call for reconciliation. There have been many reports outlining that, highlighting that, confirming that."

Thomson challenged people to look up the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to look up the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society to learn more about the history of colonialism in Canada.

The city also directed residents to a series of short videos made available through the Heritage Burnaby website, including one titled "Thoughts on decolonizing heritage" and another called "Are we really changing? Reflections on Reconciliation."

Burnaby sits on the unceded territories of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples, many of whom were sent to residential "schools" in the past or taken from their families and communities through the child "welfare" system well into the present.

The 2 systems are broadly recognized as being integral parts of an ongoing genocide against Indigenous Peoples in Canada, as they sought to erase Indigenous cultures through violence and coercion.

—By Dustin Godfrey


  • 44 new cases. Total 147,621
  • 0 new deaths. Total 1,754
  • 816 active cases (-60). 108 people in hospital (-2), 34 in ICU (0)
  • Rolling 7-day average of new cases is down to 52.
  • 78.4% of people 18+/77.1% of people 12+ have received their 1st vaccine dose.
  • 32.8% of people 18+/30.6% of people 12+ have received their 2nd vaccine dose.
  • 17 new cases in Fraser Health (38% of BC).

  • Burnaby case rates decline to near zero: The western half of Burnaby had 0 cases per 100k people in the week of June 22-28, and 0% positivity rates, while the NE and SE quadrants were each sitting at 1/100k and 1% positivity rates. Meanwhile, vaccination rates are inching towards 80% for people 12+ in all quadrants except the northwest—which has already hit 82%. Great work, Burnaby!
  • Health Canada adds warning for rare side effect of Pfizer, Moderna vaccines: Health Canada has updated the labels for the 2 mRNA vaccines currently in use in Canada to include information on myocarditis and pericarditis, extremely rare side effects that may occur after vaccination. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations within several days of being vaccinated, you should seek immediate medical attention.
  • Longest ever state of emergency ends as BC moves to Step 3: Click here for information on what that means for you.
The sun rising over Deer Lake on June 30, 2021. 📷 Kelly Borget / Submitted
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