Monday, June 14, 2021 - 12:15 PM

Council Statement: St. John’s Days Discontinued as Council Encourages Residents to Mark National Indigenous Peoples Day

In place of St. John’s Days, this year Council has decided to recognize National Indigenous Peoples Day (NIPD), which takes place annually on June 21. Although many pandemic restrictions remain in place, Council and staff are encouraging residents of the City to find ways to celebrate the rich and diverse histories and cultures of Indigenous Peoples in Newfoundland and Labrador.

For many years, St. John’s Days has traditionally been celebrated in late June. It has always been closely associated with the historic landing of John Cabot on the island of Newfoundland in 1497. For this reason, the celebration of St. John’s Days has also typically coincided with the provincial holiday formerly known as ‘Discovery Day’.

While in more recent times St. John’s Days has grown into a celebration of the City and its diverse residents, Council and staff recognize the inherent contradiction of holding such celebrations on a colonial holiday. In August 2018, Council voted to no longer recognize ‘Discovery Day’. Last year, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador followed suit, with plans to hold consultations with Indigenous groups to help identify a more permanent name.

Changing the name of the holiday formerly known as ‘Discovery Day’ was an important step in the process of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in the province. In particular, it helps to advance ‘Call to Action 47’ of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which calls on all levels of government to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery – a concept that has been used to justify centuries of colonial violence, including the residential school system.

This year, with the June Holiday and NIPD coinciding on June 21, Council is taking a further step to advance ‘Call to Action 47’, and to deliver on its new commitments made last fall with the adoption of the Declaration in Support of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, by encouraging residents to celebrate NIPD in their own way. For ideas on how to do so, residents are invited to visit firstlightnl.ca/NIPD.

While St. John’s Days will be discontinued going forward, City staff are developing an alternative proposal to continue celebrating the diverse communities that call St. John’s home. In addition, the City is planning to organize several summer activities to help residents get outside and enjoy the City’s parks and neighbourhoods.