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What Are We Actually Celebrating on Canada day?

Canada recently celebrated its 150th birthday with a lot of parties, concerts, and fireworks. Amidst all these festivities we must ask ourselves the question: What are we celebrating when we celebrate “Canada 150”?

There are many answers to that question. But there is one answer that makes some squirm in their seats, one we all need to give more thought. When we celebrate Canada 150 we are celebrating colonization.

There is a long and cruel history of genocide committed against indigenous people of this land. Children were forcefully taken away from their families and put into residential schools to “Kill The Indian In The Child”. Many of them were physically, emotionally and sexually abused, which has had intergenerational effects. Now some might argue that “genocide” is a far too strong word to use in this case, this was rather “cultural genocide”. Even the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has labeled these acts as “cultural genocide”. But according to the UN’s convention of genocide (1948), the IRS system did commit genocide:

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Hunger has been used as a tool to move indigenous people off of their traditional land to make room for railway tracks and settlements. These were all planned actions to cause malnutrition, weakened immunity and diseases such as tuberculosis.  

When the past is brought up in conversations about the broken relationship, many people jump to self-defense saying, they can not be blamed for things their ancestors did. Well, let’s talk about recent events then.

Though 7% of children in Canada are aboriginal, they make up about half of all the foster children in the country, states an article. There are hundreds of cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. According to Statistics Canada, Indigenous women 15 years and older were 3.5 times more likely to experience violence than non-indigenous women. 

There were many indigenous people who did not celebrate Canada day. Many who tried to get their points across about how they feel about this day. Members of the Bawating Water Protectors set up a teepee on the edge of Parliament Hills to remind everyone that the 150th anniversary is a painful reminder of residential schools, appropriation of land and decades of government-supported assimilation of indigenous people.  

I have heard people say that indigenous people should come to Canada day celebrations otherwise the gap in the relationship will keep getting bigger and bigger. But it is important to realize that Canada was found upon physical and cultural genocide. Colonization is still ongoing and indigenous people are still being mistreated and discriminated against. A very powerful article titled, “The Canada most people don’t see” compares the lives of indigenous and non-indigenous people:

It has an unemployment rate worse than Sudan and the median income is on par with Latvia. There, the infant mortality rate is worse than Russia. The sewage systems often don’t work, and there is no fire department. Medical facilities are few and far away. Drug and alcohol addictions are rampant. TB is at epidemic levels, and the rate of HIV infection is higher than Nigeria’s. This is a Canada of broken windows in tarpaper shacks.”

It is the time we start acknowledging colonialism and its effects. We have to look at the racial injustices that are happening. So next Canada day ask yourself, “What is being celebrated this Canada day?”  

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