The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) received criticism on social media after it wished students, staff and families a “happy long weekend holiday” rather than a happy Thanksgiving.
Many took to Twitter to voice their opinion about WRDSB’s post, with some accusing the school board of being woke.
True North’s Andrew Lawton said it seems Thanksgiving “is just too controversial for the Waterloo Region District School Board.”
Meanwhile, True North’s Sue-Ann Levy called the board “a bunch of turkeys.”
Media personality and parental rights advocate Tanya Granic Allen also commented, tweeting out “well if you’re going to go woke, might as well go full-bore!”
The school board did eventually post a “Thanksgiving” greeting on Sunday for “all those who are celebrating.”
WRDSB’s social media post came amid some activists saying Thanksgiving should be reimagined due to its “colonial roots.”
Canada first observed Thanksgiving in 1859, eight years before Confederation. The holiday was intended to be dedicated to the “public and solemn” recognition of the mercies of God.
However, in a 2021 interview with CBC, historian and liberal arts professor Peter Stevens said Indigenous peoples were excluded from what was seen as “greatness”, adding sermons from the era did not mention the Indigenous.
“The very absence of any reference to Indigenous people actually says a lot about the mindset at the time, because in a way, what’s happened is that the Indigenous people have been completely erased from the story,” Stevens said.
“At the time, (it) was very much about understanding that Canada was this white country, a British country, a Christian country, and that was the agenda at the time.”
Stevens believes that Thanksgiving can be redefined, especially given its proximity to Truth and Reconciliation day.
“Having those two holidays juxtaposed like that, I would hope gets Canadians to pause and think, ‘OK, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for, but what was the cost? What systems were in place that enabled us to enjoy all this prosperity?'” Stevens told CBC.
Indigenous radio host Kim Wheeler, who called on Canadians to “decolonize” their thanksgiving celebrations, told CBC some of her friends now refer to the holiday as a “harvest festival” or “fall feast.”
“They’ve made a conscious decision to do that, and I think that’s great because there’s definitely room for many different kinds of celebrations,” she said.
In response to a query from True North, WRDSB communication officer Estefania Brandenstein said, “we know the WRDSB community is diverse and celebrates and acknowledges holidays, long weekends, and special events, in many different ways.”
“On Friday, we wished everyone a happy long weekend, as we had different celebrations over the weekend. For Sunday, we had scheduled two posts, one for Sukkot and one for Thanksgiving.”
She added that this gave the board the opportunity to acknowledge the holidays closer to their date.
Editor’s note: this article has been updated to reflect comment from the WRDSB received post-publication.