Should Canada Day be a point of celebration? Or a day of mourning and somber reflection?
With the recent discovery of 215 Indigenous children’s remains near a residential school in Kamloops, B.C., and another recent ghastly discovery of 751 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Saskatchewan, the recent deadly attack against a Muslim family in London, Ontario, the Italian Internment apology from Trudeau coming only too late but better than nothing, Black lives, Migrant lives, Women and Trans, men and Trans – should debate be brewing over whether it is appropriate to hold Canada Day celebrations this year?
This is a challenging moment as a Canadian nation. How can we celebrate Canada’s violent history on July 1st? Canada Day needs to turn into a day of mourning, not celebration. Canada Day almost needs to be cancelled in the way we celebrate it today, the way we observe Canada Day as this day of pride. We’re Canadians, and we’re not better than the rest of the world.
It’s starting to stink and sink. We now know that’s not true at all. That past is very much connected to the present. The history of oppression, colonization and genocide, is just reflected in different areas, like the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in foster care, and of Indigenous people in the prison system.
We’re in an ugly moment in Canada. With this disgusting face of ours, how can we on Canada Day stand up and celebrate who we are? The only way to move forward is if we turn Canada Day into a day of remembrance.
In fact, it should be the Day of Reconciliation, a day to be solemn and sad and spread awareness about the existing inequalities. Canada Day is a powerful way to educate our Canadian citizens. It is something how immigrants did survive and held on to what we have. They paid greatly for the existence of what is now called Canada. This is where acknowledgment of Canada’s true history can be brought to light showing that there needs to be a new way of thinking.
We need to stop and not celebrate because there are so many things we need to fix before celebrating Canada. As Canada prepares to celebrate its 154th birthday, we should be interested in understanding how current conversations, including those about reconciliation and multiculturalism, intersect with the myth of the vanishing Indian and all nationalities.
In precisely this way, the legal foundation of Canada is built on the premise that Indians do not exist as people. The state has a strong interest in upholding this lie: its legitimacy – its very existence – depends on it.
Canada as a nation was therefore born out of a tenuous balancing act. On the one hand the new state denied Indian personhood; on the other its founding acts acknowledge our problematic (for Canada) existence. The preoccupation of the state – Canada’s attempt to reconcile its original contradiction.
And really, where do you even start to celebrate? Do you invite the kid you’ve been bullying for 154 years, expecting a present and a pat on the back for being so thoughtful? When the kid arrives, do you pretend like nothing ever happened? Do you apologize?
The bullying, as I call it, has been going on for nearly 500 years, starting with Jacques Cartier’s kidnapping of Chief Donnacona of the St-Lawrence Iroqouis, and two of his sons, Domagaya and Taignoagny, from the village of Stadacona. Cartier took them to France in May of 1536. Donnacona never made it back to the St-Lawrence, dying in France in 1539.
And what do you expect in return? It’s a birthday, after all – it’s a party. It would be very unkind of your guest not to accept an apology and eat some cake. If you’re going to be a spoilsport, maybe you just shouldn’t have come.
The prime minister, Justin Trudeau, recently reopened bitter memories for Italian Canadians with a formal apology for what many consider a longstanding injustice: the detention and internment of hundreds of Italian Canadians whose lives were thrown into chaos during World War 2.
For decades, the Italian community had called on the government to recognize that it acted improperly when it detained hundreds of Italian Canadians, some of whom were Canadian citizens. In total, 634 men were picked up by the police. Other nationalities were also treated unkindly.
We must celebrate even what immigrants of the last 154 years have achieved. We must accept that the mistakes were made, but now is the time to sit down and talk about it and reconcile and make sure that every ceremony, everywhere we go we acknowledge the people of this land and all those who contributed in making Canada t the great country it is.
And Canada is what? In your view or perception? Maybe it isn’t as racist, oppressive, evil, irredeemable, and unworthy of celebrating its 500 years of European influence and 154 years of existence as a united political entity as some would like you to believe.
We need Canada to give us something to celebrate on marking our 154th birthday. We need people to go into July 1st and beyond — eyes wide open accepting our reality and who we are as a country. But it’s also a time to recommit– a time to re-energize and to care.
Happy Canada Day to all Canadians — thanking Canada for our home and native land.