July 1st, Canada Day, 2021.
Normally, I’d be celebrating. As an immigrant, Canada Day has always held a special significance, being that it’s the birthday of a country that, to my mind, welcomed my family and I in, and offered us the opportunity to have a much better life than we would have had in my country of origin.
I have a good perspective on that. When I was young, my parents took us back to our home country to visit relatives several times. It was a big trip, flying two adults and three children overseas, but they would save up and forgo quite a few luxuries to be able to do it. We’d make it count by going for several weeks, so I got first hand experience of the standard of living my family there was living.
Those trips really taught me to appreciate our life in Canada.
I’ve always felt very fortunate to be Canadian, very proud of the freedoms and protections that afforded me. I became a citizen when I was only eight, my parents pulling me along with them through the Citizenship Application Process. I don’t know if it was that experience, or the fact that my father, who’s birthday also fell on the first of July, was too cheap to spring for Cable in the mid to late seventies that sparked a keen interest in Canadian History in me. We were limited in channel options back then, and the ones with the most daytime children’s programming were the provincial and federal public stations, T.V.O and CBC. So until I was a bit older, most of my viewing was of Canadian children’s shows, like Mr. Dress-up, Polka-Dot-Door and C.U.C.U.M.B.E.R.
As I grew older, I discovered the works of Pierre Burton, a noted Canadian Popular Historian and an excellent writer. I developed a near obsession with the details of the War of 1812 and the WW1 Battle of Vimy Ridge, and devoured as much Canadianna that I could find in my very Amero-centric slice of the Great White North. I would watch Canadian TV shows and movies that most of my friends had never heard of, and listen to radio shows on our public broadcaster, CBC Radio.
Every Canada Day I would celebrate, taking the day off of work when I was older. After the kids came along, we’d attend the local parade and Canada Day festivities. We we made two separate trips to Ottawa, our Nation’s Capitol, for Canada Day, each time spending July 1st on Parliament Hill, watching the concerts and firework’s displays in the evening.
I am still proud of all of the good my country has done, proud to be a part of a nation that has done more than it’s small population and short history belies, but I do feel a great shame in the dark past that has been recently unearthed about the country I love.
Admittedly, we have always known that the indigenous peoples of our country were grossly mistreated through our shared history. Their lands were stolen, their culture suppressed, even destroyed, the resources they desperately need withheld or not provided at all. We knew this, but we fooled ourselves into thinking that was then, and now it’s so much better.
We assuaged our guilt by enjoying and appropriating the beauty of their cultures, while not making amends for the horrors our grand forebears and our religious leaders visited on them for literally generations.
Everything that is now coming to light, all of the horrors, all of the evil, makes me wonder if we, as a country, can ever do enough, offer enough in reparation to heal the peoples and cultures that we have devastated.
Much of the usual Canada Day festivities around the nation have either been toned down or canceled outright due to the ongoing COVID Pandemic, but even if that were not the case, I’m not sure I’d feel right about celebrating this year. I lowered the flag on the flagpole I placed in my front yard the year we bought our home to half-staff this morning, after I had replaced the worn and faded one that hung on it.
I still think there is a lot to be proud of about Canada and being Canadian, but as we’ve recently learned, there is also a lot to make amends for. We have a long way to go, I think, before we can truly see Canada as the country we all want it to be, for everyone.
I don’t want to admonish anyone who is choosing to celebrate, though I do hope those that do take time to reflect on these tragedies and the horrors they have revealed. I hope you find it in yourself to commit to supporting indigenous Canadians in this crisis in any way you’re able. I also don’t want this post to be seen as just empty virtue signaling, in the manner I see many people who have no claim on the pain our indigenous neighbours are feeling seem to be doing. I just think having a more somber, reflective Canada Day, one in which we take time to acknowledge our faults as a nation, time to support and grieve with the indigenous people who’s ancestral lands we live on, is only appropriate.