How about commemorating instead? Better yet - how about letting Indigenous people decide?
Today is the 20th and final day of sharing the 94 Calls to Action (CTAs) from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
It's also June 30, making it the end of National Indigenous History Month, and the day before Canada Day.
I know this is a sensitive topic, and whatever I say, half of you will be mad at me. Even so, I'm going to post this, because that's kinda the point.
A few years ago, when it was Canada's 150th birthday, a colleague of mine suggested I read up on the protests against #Canada150. We had just gone through Indigenous cultural awareness training at work, which was the first time I remember learning about residential schools. So while I wasn't paying much attention before, I quickly became aware that Canada Day wasn't a celebration for everyone.
So instead of cancelling or celebrating, here are some possible alternatives.
Cancel Celebrate Commemorate Canada Day
We could commemorate Canada Day. Google's Oxford Languages defines commemorate as:
"recall and show respect for (someone or something), e.g. 'a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the war dead'
celebrate (an event, a person, or a situation) by doing or building something, e.g. 'it was a night commemorated in a song'."
This makes commemoration an appropriate activity for me this Canada Day. I'm truly grateful to be Canadian and live in this country. There's much to celebrate and be thankful for - including my second vaccine shot (plug for #COVIDvaccines! Please go get yours, it saves lives!)
BUT - I'm also heartbroken over the systemic racism and discrimination that exists, historically and currently, against our Indigenous, Black, racialized, gender diverse, immigrant, low-income, and all other marginalized people. And this latest discovery of unmarked graves by the Lower Kootenay Band coming right before July 1 is another reason not to celebrate Canada's Confederation colonization of Indigenous peoples.
If you've been following our 20 day journey of reading and reflecting on the 94 Calls to Action "to redress the legacy of residential schools", hopefully you'll have noted:
That 21% of the CTAs are not even started since the report was issued in 2015
That only 15% (14) CTAs are considered "complete". That makes 80 of 94 CTAs that are in varying degrees of progress, or not started at all.
That most of the incomplete CTAs are so obvious, reasonable or common sense - it's hard to understand why they're still not done after six years. Like CTA #6 asking to repeal the "spanking law" in Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which "allows parents, caregivers and educators to use force toward a pupil or child as a means of correction".
That six years after the CTAs were issued, an additional 966 graves/bodies were found of previously unaccounted for residential school children. (There are 2,878 names of known deceased residential school children in this Memorial Register.)
That after 130+ years of residential schools, which had the confessed goal to "kill the Indian in the child" - there is still no apology from the world leader of the Catholic church, as requested in CTA #58.
CTA progress per this CBC website
I want to be a proud Canadian. I want to love and celebrate my country. I recognize Canada has done a lot of good, and is for many (but not all) people, a great place to live. But to only be proud of your country (ahem, USA) is to be blind to all its wrongdoings. A country is made up of people, and people do wrong things, so countries do too.
So this Canada Day, I commemorate our health care, our refugee supports, our human rights and freedoms, our sacrifices in war and peacekeeping. So many blessings from living here that aren't perfect, but are good.
And I commemorate the dead Indigenous children, the residential school survivors, the land, culture, language, ways of life, intergenerational trauma, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and all victims of discrimination - so many evil things that we need to learn from and stop forever.
Canada shouldn't only be celebrated, nor does it need to be cancelled. We commemorate to honour the good that exists, and the victims we've harmed.
Transfer Power and Agency to Indigenous Peoples
In the middle of writing this, I happened to have a meeting on decolonization. One of the key themes we discussed was transfer of power, and giving agency back to oppressed people.
It hit me that this very discussion on cancel/celebrate Canada Day was still part of colonization. The very act of deciding one way or the other was being done and discussed by Canadian settlers.
free, prior and informed consent
for Indigenous peoples - what would it look like to apply UNDRIP to Canada Day activities?
I don't really have any insightful thoughts or answers for this - I would love to hear yours!
Share your stories and comments.
How will you commemorate Canada Day?
What's your biggest takeaway from the 94 Calls to Action?
What action(s) will you commit to today?
Per this CBC site which reports on progress against the 94 CTAs – here are the updates as of June 26, 2021 on today's CTAs:
#50 – In progress, projects proposed. The 2019 federal budget proposes to provide $9.1 million over three years, starting in 2019–20, to support the construction of an Indigenous Legal Lodge at the University of Victoria.
#51 – Not started. There is no such policy, although a federal Working Group of Ministers cited fairness in legal interactions as a guiding principle toward reconciliation.
#52 – Not started. The governments and the courts have not yet adopted these legal principles.
#53 – In progress, projects proposed. There has been no enactment of legislation to create a National Council for Reconciliation. There are however, commitments to do so.
And as always, links for ways to donate and support organizations in truth and reconciliation are in the comments too.
#54 – Not started. The National Council for Reconciliation has not yet been created. Money has been pledged to establish the council in the 2020-21 fiscal year.
#55 – Not started. The National Council for Reconciliation has not yet been created. Therefore, governments have not provided data or annual reports to the council regarding the progress of reconciliation.
#56 – Not started. The National Council for Reconciliation has not yet been created. Therefore the council has not released a report to which the prime minister could respond.
Links to resources and charitable organizations:
Indian Residential Schools 24/7 Crisis Line:
Indian Residential School Survivors Society:
Orange Shirt Day:
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action:
Progress update on CTAs (by the CBC):
Nisitohtamowin Indigenous culture 1-hour e-learning (FREE until July 15, 2021):
Reconciliation Education and First Nations University of Canada Film Series and Online Course:
Memorial Register of Children Lost to Residential Schools:
"We Were Children", National Film Board documentary on Residential Schools, conveyed through the eyes of two children who survived. Available from Amazon Prime and NFB in French and English. May also be available through your local library. https://www.nfb.ca/film/we_were_children/