According to Google “define” Canadian is defined as “relating to or characteristic of Canada or its inhabitants,” or “a native or inhabitant to Canada.”
This year the Canadian government is planning on spending half a billion dollars on the events marking Canada’s one hundred and fiftieth birthday, and honestly, what an absurd way to spend a huge some of money just to have a big party that will just have to be outdone in fifty years time. Notwithstanding the fact that Canada does not, at least in my opinion have a lot to celebrate, yes we have a developed economy, both industrially and socially but at what cost? As author Pamela Palmater says in her recent article, “Perhaps Canada should cancel its celebrations and undertake the hard work necessary to make amends.”
I’d like to start this blog by recognizing the fact that I am not Indigenous and I am well aware that I fall into the category of privilege so I do not wish to speak on anyone’s behalf, but here I would like to identify as a historian who does see an incredible amount of flaws in celebrating Canada’s one hundred and fiftieth birthday especially when there are many other “Canadians” who deserve to have this funding or even simply have their voices heard.
Many Canadians like to pride themselves on the “fact” that we are supposed to represent a multicultural nation that is not only inclusive but has great relationships, when in realty the foundation of the nation is rooted on the brutal colonization of Indigenous peoples. Not only have Indigenous peoples faced extreme hardships through cultural appropriation, discrimination, and horrific standards of living; the Canadian government has inflicted unthinkable acts. Some of these include, the conquering of land and forcing the true inhabitants to live of reserves, the Indian Act of 1876, which contained barbaric agreements like: women who married outside of the “tribe” would lose their status, the enactment of “Indian lands”, the complete elimination of many traditional practices and the horrors of the implementation of residential schools. But of course none of this is mentioned in terms of celebrating Canada’s one hundred and fiftieth since it would really but a damper on the party’s vibe. Palmater really sums up this abandonment of responsibility when she writes, “…every firework, hot dog and piece of birthday cake in Canada’s 150th celebration will be paid for by the genocide of Indigenous peoples and cultures.” This statement could not be more truthful especially when it comes to residential schools, according to an article from 2015, it was guessed that 6,000 children might have died at these institutions. This is not factoring the traumas that many suffered from whether it was physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, nor the fact that too many people had to suffer having their voices eliminated out of history receive no help whatsoever. For an “inclusive” country, I call bullshit- inclusive of whom?
In addition, I have an issue that we are spending so much money on a glorified party when in 2010 the Native Women’s Association of Canada completed a study and presented information stating that a total of 582 cases had been documented concerning murdered and missing Indigenous women. Why on earth is the Canadian government having a merrymaking when this stat has only risen since then and a national inquiry is taking place later this year? Why is this money not going towards awareness, better resources for those who far victim to abuse, or even to help better supplies and treatment of Indigenous people? The three goals of the inquiry are to 1. Find the truth, 2. Honouring the truth, and 3. Giving life to the truth as a path to healing, yet, on July 1st 2017, many parts of the country will be celebrating tortured, starved and the genocide of Indigenous peoples. Again referring back to Palmater’s article, “Today, more Indigenous children are taken from their families – now put into foster care – than at the height of the residential schools cruelty.” But lets ignore this fact, and gather with our families and enjoy the spectacle that parliament hill becomes.
Of course no incorporation of art, traditional practices or cultural inclusion for the 150th will fix the problems of the past, but some recognition in notable. Perhaps as a nation we should be reconciling the acts of Canada’s past and taking responsibility and maybe have the “uncomfortable” conversation that Canadian’s messed up and have some extreme traumas to attempt to resolve, that should not be celebrated through the colonization of this country.
It should be noted as well that I only briefly touched on some of the realities of Indigenous peoples, and by no means am trying to speak on the behalf. For more information consider taking a look at the websites when considering the 150th celebration:
Every Dog Barks - Riel. March 2014. Jeff Macklin.