If you happened to be in the South Granville area of the Fairview neighbourhood Friday (June 30), you may have see a tallish bearded fellow walking around wearing a red and white cloth stovepipe hat marked with a large red maple leaf—that would have been my friend Dustin wearing his Canada Day hat a day early.
If you did see him, It would have done no good to tell him that Canada Day wasn’t until tomorrow.
Dustin would likely have just looked at you with that good-natured smile of his and answered that every day was Canada Day. And he would have been right, for better and for worse.
Canada 150—not to rain on the celebration but…ah, nothing
For those keeping track, this July 1st marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation; the union, in 1867, of the three British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, into the Dominion of Canada.
Now it it has to be said that Canada Day is arguably the one day of the year when Canadian indigenous people have the least to celebrate of anyone in the country; after all Canada’s gain was entirely their loss.
Every Canadian should know that Canada and the good that it has accomplished (which is worth celebrating) is built upon foundations of injustice, theft, and violence. And that time alone will not heal the wounds caused by the long mistreatment of First Nations; certainly not as long as the Indian Act continues its crippling work of enthralling and infantalizing indigenous peoples—as the act has been doing now for 141 years.
But I digress. The last thing that I want to do here is descend into an angry polemic in hindsight that unnecessarily depresses anyone on the eve of Canada Day or discourages any forward-looking and idealistic Canadians, like my young friend Dustin.
And I do not want to leave the impression that I have lost my own belief in the goodness of Canada, or her citizens—particularly the young ones.
In Dustin and his friends I see a rising generation of Canadians—largely unencumbered by the bigotry and baggage of the past—that may finally be able to unflinchingly and effectively begin righting the historic wrongs and fairly settling the old accounts with indigenous people.
It is Pollyannish but I believe in a Canada that takes responsibility for its crimes against indigenous peoples and finds a way to both atone in the eyes of the victims and move on to a future of co-equality. Such a Canada would be a very formidable nation: strong in its unity and in its sense of right and wrong.
And Canada will be all the more respected as a voice for human rights in the world when—having addressed its own worst human rights practices—it can finally speak without so much hypocrisy.
Anyway, there are other memorial days to mark Canada’s past. On July 1st I will be thinking about the future of Canada and, as I say, I am optimistic about that future.