I woke up on this 25th Indigenous Peoples Day grateful to be on the traditional lands of the Tsawwassen Nation — The land near the sea.
I am also encouraged by the recent increase in news coverage of the need for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. It is sad and tragic that we need stories like the recent discovery at the Residential School in Kamloops to gain our attention. I only hope that this increased awareness is a tipping point, and not something that will be pushed aside when the next news story comes along.
The outrage that Canadians are feeling today has many calling on communities to cancel Canada Day celebrations. While I share the outrage, I see it as an important day for Canadians to recognize both our pride and shame. It is a day we should use to acknowledge that we can do better. A day to reflect on the world from an expanded lens.
I am a proud Canadian. I am proud of Terry Fox. I am proud of Michael J Fox, Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, and Dr Peter Bryce. I was proud when Canada’s Women’s and Men’s teams both won gold in Olympic hockey in 2010. I proudly tell my American friends that it was Canadian Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone in 1876, and Canadian James Naismith that originated the game of Basketball in 1891. I am proud of all the individual Canadians that have made Canada a better place and have pushed for racial, gender, and LGBTQ rights. I am proud of all those that have driven positive change making Canada a place where people from all over the world want to live.
These are all items that have nothing to do with anything I personally did, but I am still proud.
On the other hand, I feel shame for our treatment of Indigenous peoples. For residential schools and robbing First Nations of their rich way of life. For causing their starvation, steeling their land, and forcing them to live on reserves while settlers profited off their land. For keeping them poor. For their shorter life expectancy, higher incarceration rates and suicide rates.
I did not do these things, but like the pride I have in things I didn’t do, I also have shame. We need to stop conveniently saying the past has nothing to do with us.
We don’t need to live in constant guilt about the past, but we can work to make a difference going forward. Our Canada Day focus should move away from celebrating the birth of a nation and become a day where we celebrate what we can become.
What could this look like? I encourage you to explore the Washington Post link below which talks about the German’s approach to acknowledging the Holocaust. Canada can learn a lot from their model.
I am proud to be Canadian, and I also know we can do better. We have an opportunity to move beyond political rhetoric. To stop fighting First Nations in court. To take a leap and come clean with the truth so we can move on with reconciliation. To be the leader in the world we claim to be.
On Canada Day, I will express my pride, but also acknowledge my shame.