Never before has a Canada Day been shrouded in such a poignant and emotional mood.
Normally this national day of celebration is a joyous event marked by somewhat uncharacteristic enthusiasm.
But this year the country is in mourning after the horrific discoveries of mass graves at two and likely more former First Nations residential schools. A dark episode in our history has been brought to light and it has shaken the nation to its core.
Canada Day is traditionally a time to feel good about our accomplishments as a nation, but this year, many feel it is inappropriate to thump our chests and sing our own praises after the full light of awareness has been shone on the horror of the residential school experience inflicted on thousands of Indigenous Canadians. Communities, including our own, have cancelled Canada Day ceremonies out of respect for the children and others discovered buried – anonymously for now but, hopefully, not for long.
There are people who feel we should still celebrate our national holiday, that this stain on our history does not erase all that we have accomplished and no one is really saying that it does. But we can’t move forward as a nation without coming to terms with this stark indictment of our colonial past.
Perhaps the way forward is to use it as an inspiration for a new social contract that finally recognizes Canada’s First Nations. Now that we’ve seen the truth, we can truly begin to work on reconciliation. If anyone is looking for a place to start, reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s report ‘Calls to Action’ is a good place to begin.
But it’s only a beginning. There is a long way to go, and Canada Day 2021 is a good time to begin the journey towards reconciliation. Once we’ve done that, we can begin to earn the reputation we have as a country, to quote the New York Times, “which has often been perceived, fairly or not, as a bastion of progressivism and multiculturalism.”
We all love this land and its people, there’s no question about that. We have accomplished great things. Perhaps on Canada Day 2021 we can stop and make the reassessments we need and find a new way forward that includes all Canadians.