I am writing this post in Treaty 1 territory.
I used to love tattooing up and wearing red and white, dreamt the only real tattoo I’d get would be of a Canadian flag. I loved going to Parliament, or street parties, or fireworks to join with festivities. I remember when I was 8 y/o I sang (not well) the national anthem to friends and family. I cherish those memories.
This year, my definition of what it means to be Canadian has changed, and I don’t feel like celebrating is the best way for me to recognize Canada.
First off, it is not Canada’s birthday. In fact, Canada as a place existed before 1867, with Ontario as Lower Canada and Quebec as Upper Canada. The word “Canada” is derived from an Iroquois word meaning “village” or “settlement”. We are celebrating the signing of the British North American Act but this was not Canada’s first signed Act. In 1867 Canada consisted of the colonies in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Ontario and Quebec. The other provinces and territories which we recognize today did not begin to be added until 1905 or much later. We actually didn’t become independent until the Balfour Declaration in 1926 made Canada equal to Britain. Maybe this is logistics, and it doesn’t play a huge role in why I am not celebrating, but I found it interesting as many people are unaware of the history of July 1.
One outright reason I am not celebrating is because of the romanticism of alcohol. Yes, there are many occasions where people ingest quantities of alcohol and this is not a stand-alone conflict of my values. Some may say, then don’t drink, and I am not… for me, it is beyond a simple discussion.
Before I continue, I’d like to note the white, classist bias I have that may exist in my writing.
Truth is another reason I am not celebrating. As a little girl, ignorance was totally bliss. When I found out that Santa wasn’t real, I was crushed! And finding out that the country I live in seeks to hide atrocities and continues to engage in colonialism is unacceptable for me to celebrate. The truth is hard sometimes and truth and awareness/access of the truth have not been reached. Canada’s has engaged in racism from their conception (and before that). Many are unaware of these issues and I know when I learned about them in a disability studies class, 22 years into my life, I was shocked and devastated that the country I loved ignored these things. I again read about these in the Human Rights Museum which I visited on Thursday, June 29. Here are some of the photos I took about history, in case you have not heard:
Well, that was a little history, and some may argue that is just what it is… something in our past. Well, as a front-line worker, passionate about mental health and addiction, homelessness, and Indigenous populations, I see things a lot differently. I see the continuity of maltreatment and covert, systemic racism, and colonialism. I see the shortfalls of the mental health system, social services, and other funding/access issues. I see ignorance about issues of racism, classism, and paternalism. I see the absolute battle to escape poverty, historical implications are most certainly evident. I see the treatment of those with mental illness and it is far from great. These, and many more, are not things I can or want to unsee. I have been given a unique privilege to work with these populations and I am so unhappy with the systems in place. No, it cannot be blamed all on one Canada, but the nation definitely ignores, hides, and displaces these issues so that they prevail.
We spent $200 000 on a giant duck. Sure, tourism, whatever… I am FAIRLY certain that people will travel to Toronto regardless of this big duck (and trust me, I LOVE ducks, but I do not support that). In 2016, the federal government spend more than $6 million on Canada Day celebrations. This year, the feds are spending $500 million for Canada Day. And this number doesn’t include the amount that will be spent for the rest of the year towards Nationalism. Nationalism is the feeling (created and fostered by the Government, advertising, etc) of being loyal and proud to ones country, and its often covert, 6 years of post-secondary school has finally allowed me to see the ways in which we are still dominated by Euro-centric, paternalistic ideas and the access to understanding these practices like I have, is minimal. There is still unproportionate numbers of Indigenous students, or students of colour who are unable to attend post-secondary (again, for a number of reasons). In my view, Canada has done a great job of sort of brain-washing us to believe its amazing. If you’ve read my other posts, its been so so so incredibly difficult to track down exact locations of Indian Residential Schools, most of which are unmarked.
I am in no way suggesting any country is perfect, better, etc. I am not comparing things like that. I enjoy living in Canada, acknowledging though, that I am a white citizen, with a post-secondary education, and of middle class. I am abstaining from celebrating for so many reasons but I do not judge you nor your choice to celebrate, protest, party, or abstain. This platform I created to share my experiences and values, not to impose them upon anyone. If you’ve read this far, thank you 😊 Happy Canada Day, if you are celebrating. If you are protesting, I hope you find peace and can accomplish your goals. If you are honouring Indigenous peoples or culture, Happy 15000 years and counting! And, regardless of what you do today, I hope you have a Wonderful July 1st Just Because You Get a Day Off Day! Unless you are a nurse or other profession, then I just wish you the bestest time!
I stand in support of the First Peoples of Canada.