This year, as you all know very very well at this point, is Canada’s 150th anniversary. With this has come a lot of pride, a lot of advertisements, and a lot of controversy. Although Canada is known globally as a progressive and peaceful nation, much of these 150 years have been filled with many levels of abuse of the Indigenous population and non-white immigrants. Mercedes wrote a compelling article on Canada’s 150 from an Indigenous perspective in Opinions, and everyone should take the time to read it. The treatment of the Indigenous people is something that is inexcusable, and it’s this treatment that our country is built on. It’s hard to be positive with that knowledge.
It wasn’t only the Indigenous people who were harmed—even though Canada was a nation stolen and created by colonizers and filled with immigrants, the white people in power in Canada went out of their way to ostracize and push out Asiatic immigrants, who came here to start a new life in a country that they hoped would welcome them and received little but discrimination and violence. And after working so hard to create a home for themselves in this hostile country, Japanese Canadians were forcibly interned and had their livelihoods stolen from them during World War II. Canada has a terrible history. It’s important to remember all of this in our celebrations.
However, in many aspects I am proud of the country we are now. As a woman, I am immensely grateful to live in a country that respects my rights. As someone who is low income and needs to take medication, I am grateful that I have access to it through Fair Pharmacare. I am grateful that two of my best friends, who are gay, can get married without question. I am proud that my country is making steps towards being safer for LGBTQ+ people, including the passing of Bill C-16, which changes the Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination and violence based on gender identity. It’s sad that your country having a basic respect for human rights is something to be proud of, but with the state of global politics, it is.
I’ve seen a lot of positivity around me, too, and it’s hard for it to not be a bit infectious. On Canada Day, my old supervisor and friend made a post on Facebook about how he had come to Canada to find love and peace a few years ago, leaving his hard life in Iran behind. His dog just finally joined him in Canada, and my Facebook feed has been covered in happy pictures of them playing together. Another close friend just gained his permanent residency in Canada, and celebrated his first Canada Day as an almost-citizen. My song in the Other Playlist this week is by Ivan Hrvatska, a local singer and painter, who emigrated from Croatia and passionately loves Canada. Even though we have a horrible past of dealing with immigrants, I’m happy to see that that is starting to change.
This Canada Day, I watched the fireworks with friends by the Convention Centre. The streets were crammed full of people in red and white, and one man even brought an obnoxiously large Canadian flag. We all had a great time celebrating our country. However, even though that kind of blind patriotism is fun in the moment, we need to continue to bring to light how we got to this point as a country, and why exactly this was a controversial anniversary.