I have a mixed history with Canada Day. Growing up, I was relatively ambivalent about it. I remember one year, though, that I was upset that I couldn’t feel proud about my country because I'd recently heard about protesters being mistreated. Was that really the first time I’d heard of such a thing in Canada?
Since then, I’ve found myself getting swept up in Canada Day celebrations with my friends and family. That’s the thing about privilege: It’s easy to momentarily forget or gloss over the causes you care about when they don’t directly affect you, and lean back in red and white clothes and say something like, “Canada may not be perfect, but I’m proud to be Canadian.”
I do think there are things worth celebrating about Canada, and far be it from me to take that away from anyone, but I have grown increasingly uneasy about the fact that we celebrate Canada in such a nationalistic way on the anniversary of Confederation. Maybe there's a happy medium somewhere, and if so, I hope to find it. Maybe it's as simple as finding the right shirt so I can have fun with friends and spark meaningful conversations at the same time.
My growing unease came to a head for me this year with the push to celebrate Canada 150. The concept made me particularly uneasy, but, as a person who is far from perfect at keeping an eye on my privilege, I found myself starting to get swept up in it in spite of my concerns.
To be clear, I am happy to live in Canada, but I don’t think 150 years since Confederation is something to celebrate, especially since so little of the conversation has changed since the 100-year mark. As Eric Ritskes put it, “truth [...] is needed before we start celebrating reconciliation” (source, cited July 1, 2017).
The trouble is that Confederation is really just when settlers first grouped themselves together in an organization they called Canada, as usual without respect for the people who were already there. We can’t in good faith celebrate our country’s “birthday” on a date that symbolizes so much negativity for Indigenous peoples. This land is much older, people have lived on it for far longer than 150 years, and the Canada that Canada 150 celebrates is built on cultural genocide. That’s a hard pill to swallow if you’re trying to celebrate.
That’s enough of me talking, though. I’m just some white lady who is trying to be more aware of what I get swept up in and pay more attention to the nagging feeling in the back of my head. Here are a few things to check out (I’d love it if you shared more with me):
- Hashtags: #Resist150, #Resistance150, #Decolonize150, #Canada150Plus, #Unsettle150
- Ceremonial teepee set up on Parliament Hill
- Kent Monkman (Cree artist) (Globe & Mail - Kent Monkman: A trickster with a cause crashes Canada’s 150th birthday party)
- Colonialism 150 logo by Eric Ritskes (available on a t-shirt - proceeds to Indigenous organizations)
Psst: If you can afford it, why not celebrate Canada Day by donating to a nonprofit? I won't tell you where to put your money, but there are lots of nonprofits out there doing good things and I'm sure you can use google to find one doing something you want to support.