Canada Day is a painful reminder of colonialism’s legacy for many
By Bex Peterson, Assistant Editor
Let’s skip the preamble and get right to the point: Canada is a colonial nation propped up on stolen land. The idea of Canada as a “young” nation, that it’s only “existed” as a populated territory for 151 years, erases thousands of years of Indigenous history, and perpetuates harmful and insulting rhetoric that directly impacts aboriginal communities. Within this context, it’s not only entirely reasonable, but completely understandable, that many might have mixed or negative feelings about Canada Day, and about being surrounded by flag-waving patriotism while the effects of colonialism are still deeply felt.
Many people become deeply uncomfortable when this is pointed out to them, largely because certain privileges have allowed them to ignore these facts without much consequence. It’s never comfortable to realize that you benefit from a horrific past and the ongoing oppression of a marginalized group of people. If criticizing this system and the celebration of it puts a damper on your backyard BBQ and fireworks, I’m tempted to suggest that it’s because you haven’t been paying attention to what many of these people are saying throughout the rest of the year.
Métis author âpihtawikosisân had a thread on Twitter on Canada Day pointing out the many hypocrisies and painful realities inflicted on Indigenous communities, and while I would suggest reading the thread in full and following her if you have a Twitter account, one line in particular stood out to me: “I’m an otipêyimisiw-iskwêw not a fucking Canadian.” You cannot demand patriotism and the celebration of Canada from people who never consented to being labelled Canadian in the first place, nor should you. To do so is to actively gaslight their experiences and their history.
Immigrants and People of Colour also have every reason to be critical of Canada. Islamophobia is still a deeply-ingrained part of our culture—the “barbaric cultural practices hotline” was only three short years ago, and Muslim Canadians still live in a country alongside many fellow citizens who supported it. Police killing unarmed black men is not an America-specific problem; only last month 32-year-old Orlando Brown died in police custody in Barrie, Ontario after being Tased multiple times during the arrest.
I’m not saying you have to cancel that backyard BBQ, or your fireworks. However, you cannot demand that everyone join in on celebrating Canada when Canada does not celebrate everyone throughout the rest of the year. If you’re offended by Canada Day criticism, you’re missing the bigger picture. As freelance journalist Emily Klatt wrote on Twitter that day, “The best way I know how to love Canada is to demand that we do better.”