Holding Canada Accountable
As you are undoubtedly aware, this past Wednesday marked the 153rd celebration of Canada Day. Even in a global pandemic, people were able to unite and marvel in parades of white and red all across the country. Whether it be virtually or at a distance, July 1st was spent basking in fireworks as people expressed their vision of what it means to be Canadian. However, should Canada Day stop there? While I do think there is much to celebrate, there is still so much to unpack when it comes to Canada and blatant racism.
I often hear people putting down the United States for their patterns of prejudice and systemic racism, blind to the fact that these issues are prevalent in our country too! We need to hold Canada accountable, today and always. When we take part in Canada Day festivities, we must acknowledge ALL parts of it’s history. The idealistic parties we throw once a year ignore the colonial violence that Indigenous peoples have faced since the land was first stolen from them. I believe a period of reflection is long overdue. It is time to speculate this country we like to call “true north strong and free”, and examine the forced assimilation rooted into its history.
Canada Day, known as Dominion Day until 1982, marks the anniversary of Confederation in 1867. This is when the British North America Act came into effect; a clause creating the country and splitting it into New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the province of ‘Canada’ (which divided into Quebec and Ontario). Since then, we have developed into a powerful country promoting bilingualism, peace, and more.
But if we are to promote peace, we must achieve it first. Canada day should be a day of unity, a day celebrating the multiculturalism and freedom of this country. But how is this possible given the severed relationships between the Canadian Government and the Indigenous community? Let’s take a look at the history of hardship Indigenous peoples have endured as a result of racism in Canada. In 1910, the Chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan, and Couteau nations of British Columbia expressed their view of the Europeans who had settled on their land:
“They say the Indians know nothing, and own nothing, yet their power and wealth has come from our belongings. The queen’s law which we believe guaranteed us our rights, the B.C. government has trampled underfoot. This is how our guests have treated us—the brothers we received hospitably in our house."
Now, this statement holds true as members of the Indigenous community continue to be mistreated. In 2015, Killa Atencio explained her thoughts on Canada Day:
“As an indigenous woman, I see Canada through a cracked, bloody lens, not through the rose coloured maple leaf-shaped glasses this country provides.”
Clearly, these ties are still broken as injustices continue to take place and the Indigenous community is deprived of basic human rights.
To this day, there are more than 100 water advisories in First Nations across Canada. In fact, 73% of First Nations’ water systems are at high or medium risk of contamination. Clean drinking water should not be seen as a privilege for Indigenous Peoples, but as an absolute essential. Trudeau’s government has committed to ending all of these long-term drinking water advisories by 2021, and yet have made next to no progress in doing so. This problem can not be solved with a simple band-aid: long term problems require long-term solutions, and drinking water is just the tip of the iceberg. We must act now! Educate yourself, donate, email the government, amplify Indigenous voices, and support them through everything. We must actively devote ourselves to mending the nation-to-nation relationship.
While we recognize all of the amazing things that make our country great, it is crucial that we also recognize the mistakes we’ve made and the room for growth. Then, and only then, can we truly celebrate what Canada could be.