I hate to get political, but in light of all the “why I’m not celebrating Canada Day” posts, I am going to tell you why I am.
First of all, I want to say this. There have been unprecedented injustices oppressed upon the First Nations people of this country. That is an absolute fact. Here’s another fact, children on reserves across this country, still TODAY, receive only 30% of what non-indigenous children, throughout the rest of the country get. Discrimination is alive, it’s well. And it’s real.
And I work on a First Nations reserve, and I will continue to fight for the rights of the First Nations people that I work with for many years to come. These people have been exposed and continue to be exposed to systematic racism and discrimination which has been pressed upon them by the Canadian government. And these people are my friends. And I am not okay with that. I’m really not.
But I’m celebrating Canada Day because each day we are moving closer and closer to democracy. Our democratic system is far from perfect. Does it tailor to white, male, heterosexual privilege? Well, yah, it does. But are we moving towards a more equitable, and democratic society. Yah, I think we are. We are a work in progress. And I support that.
On Canada Day, I am celebrating not the complete and total atrocities that make up our history, but instead I am celebrating my ancestors who came to this country to give their own families a better life. My ancestors came to this country to escape war. And I’m celebrating their resiliency. They lived, side by side, with Aboriginal people, in fact, married into Aboriginal families on the west coast of this province. I’m not celebrating the loss of Aboriginal land and life. I know it happened. And I’m not celebrating that.
But I am celebrating the children of my ancestors who went to the great world wars and fought and died so that we would have a better shot at democracy. They gave their lives so that we could continue to fight on our home soil for equal and fair opportunities. And we’re fighting. We are still fighting. And we’re doing so together.
When I celebrate Canada Day I’m celebrating with the friends that I have that have immigrated here in recent years to start a better life. I’m celebrating with refugees who fled their countries and who were welcomed here, on this great land, and who have survived the devastation of war and loss.
I’m celebrating because every time, in every country, that I have identified myself as being Canadian, I have heard nothing but kind comments about Canadian people. How friendly and accepting we are as a nation. How welcoming we are as a people. I am not minimalizing nor am I celebrating the horrific and brutal history, the dehumanization, and the genocide of First Nations people. I am not doing that.
But I am saying that this land has been my home for my entire life. It has been the home of my parents. And my grandparents. And they’ve worked hard to live here, too. And I am proud to be here. I am proud to be a Canadian. Are there things I would change? Yep. In a heartbeat. And that’s why I will continue to fight for those things.
But I identify as a Canadian. I do. And that’s my right. It’s my right to celebrate. To honor those, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, who died trying to propel us towards democracy.
And I am also remembering today the men who died serving at Beaumont-Hamel. Canada has a dark history. I will not deny that. I don’t condone that. And I am not minimalizing that. But this country has also become a refuge for those facing exile.
I am a proud Canadian. I am proud of our hockey players. I am proud of our poutine. I am proud of our mountains, valleys, rivers, oceans and trees. I am proud. I identify as a Canadian person.
And this Canada Day, I will be celebrating. Because while there have been extraordinary losses, we are making small gains, and together as a collective we are stronger. We are stronger when we come together as one. When we come to not just tolerate differences but to openly accept them. And we are working to get there. We are inching towards that.
What do you think?
If you’re choosing not to celebrate, I respect that. But please respect that I am.