Whenever there’s a death in the family, most cultures have a period of mourning that needs to be observed out of respect.
It has been less than a month since Canadians learned about the bodies of 215 children buried at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. Unfortunately, their relatives have not had the proper chance to mourn those young lives since these tragic details have come to light. What’s worse, with more bodies being discovered thanks to the federal government finally releasing funding to search all residential school sites, it will be a while until every child can be honoured with the respect they deserve.
That is why, with just over a week to go until Canada Day, there have been widespread calls to scale back celebration of the birth of the nation.
The #CancelCanadaDay movement has taken on various forms among different groups and communities. So far Victoria, B.C. is the only large city to officially cancel its celebrations in favour of supporting National Indigenous Peoples Day.
A group of First Nations in northern Saskatchewan has also made the same collective decision to opt out of festivities.
Last week, the Rankin Inlet Fire Department joined the list of those who will be sitting out this year’s celebrations, citing the widespread grief and anger touching every member of its department.
In the highly polarized world we live in, there seems to be little room for nuance. Which is why those against scaling back celebrations this year are dismissing these calls for solemnity as leftist propaganda orchestrated by a “woke mob” obsessed with cancelling everything.
These are the same people who see history as nothing more than the great deeds of famous white men. For them, history is something set in stone, something unmovable that cannot be changed, precisely because it supports their privileged position in society.
It’s why the idea of pulling down hollow bronze statues of their heroes is seen as such as crime – because those statues represent the preservation of the status quo.
In reality though, history is in a continuous process of being re-evaluated and shaped by those who are interpreting it, which happens to be anyone who is currently alive.
Today, Canada is celebrated as a multicultural nation that embraces people of different identities. But its foundations could not have been laid without the displacement and disenfranchisement of Indigenous people.
Indeed, when Canada was conceived, it actually created two nations: one for settlers and another for First Nation, Inuit and Metis.
Aside from cruelty and malice behind the residential school system, Indigenous people in Canada could not vote until 1960.
Given that so much of Canada’s formative years were paved at the expense of First Nation, Inuit and Metis, it’s only fair their voices be amplified now.
When people are calling for Canada Day celebrations to be scaled back this year, they aren’t attempting to remove a stat holiday from the calendar and make people work. They are just asking for respect for the families and descendants who have suffered so that settlers can enjoy freedom.
If only Canadian communities from coast to coast could acknowledge this, we might be able to evolve beyond being a two-tiered country and become whole.
Now that would be something worth celebrating.
Cody Punter is editor of Kivalliq News.