A different perspective on this day of patriotism
By Alexis Zygan, Contributor
To preface, my perspective is that of a white settler and the child of European immigrants. I acknowledge that as a first-generation Canadian, I have benefited from colonization. This article speaks on sensitive topics that may be triggering for some readers.
In light of the discovery of several residential school burial sites across Canada, the mayor of Victoria, Lisa Helps, cancelled Canada Day. Municipal politicians in Penticton and Kelowna followed in her footsteps, demonstrating a commitment to support grieving Indigenous communities. Lisa Helps spoke about how it felt wrong to celebrate Canada Day this year. The mayor of Penticton encouraged community members to honour Indigenous culture and traditions. I agree with the decision made by political leaders and the movement to cancel or boycott Canada Day.
Canada Day is a federal statutory holiday that celebrates confederation and the Constitution Act of 1867 when Canada gained autonomy from Britain. As a nation, we should be proud of our culture and history. However, after a mass grave on a former residential school grounds was uncovered in k’emlúps te Secwépemc (commonly known as Kamloops) a nationwide celebration of Canadian pride seems disingenuous and insensitive. Especially as the news reports more discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential schools across the country. Celebrating a nation that separated kids from their parents to attend boarding schools to “kill the Indian in the child,” hinders reconciliatory efforts and contributes to injustice.
Moreover, each new announcement of burial sites retraumatizes residential school survivors and those who lost family members to “the darkest chapter in Canada’s history”; a chapter that I never learnt in Social Studies class. Instead, I learned about how Indigenous people benefited from colonization. To support Indigenous people grief-struck by the announcements, Canada Day should be cancelled.
Canada is located on unceded territories, meaning that the land was never officially signed away by the Indigenous peoples but stolen by British and French colonizers. This is why land acknowledgements are used to recognize traditional nations. However, land acknowledgements are not enough. A step in the right direction, but not enough seeing as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refuses to compensate Indigenous children separated from their families by the child welfare industrial complex. Celebrating Canada Day means honouring a nation where multiculturalism is valued while Indigenous reserves still don’t have drinking water. And yes, for people who spent years as permanent residents receiving citizenship is an honour. Same with refugees who fled their home country to avoid persecution for belonging to the 2SLGBQIA+ community. Pausing celebrations to honour the blood-soaked history of this country holds more importance than national pride.
So, instead of celebrating Canada Day and watching the sky light up in red and white fireworks, donate to the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society, Orange Shirt Society, or First Nations Child and Family Caring Society. And support the communities that existed in agreement with nature before colonizers entered the country that we call our home and native land.