A different kind of Canada Day

As I’ve expressed on previous Canada Days, Canada is my country by choice, and I feel privileged and proud to be able to celebrate it every year.  But, as I’ve been posting during this month now past of Indigenous History Month, this is a time of serious reckoning for my country.  Because of the horrific discoveries of remains and unmarked graves of now in excess of 1000 children on the sites of former Residential Schools, celebration does not really seem appropriate.

I believe that virtually all normal Canada Day celebrations across the country have been cancelled in respect and support for the unimaginable grieving of the Indigenous people in Canada.  The horrors and abuse, the intentional destruction of Indigenous pride, language, and culture, has all been brought back in nightmarish proportions for residential school survivors and their communities.  Accordingly and appropriately, governments at all levels have announced that instead of returning to some semblance of Canada Day celebrations after having them cancelled last year due to COVID, we were all encouraged to spend this day in quiet reflection.  Reflection of the full horror and implications of an appalling part of our history.  Reflection on the sufferings endured by Indigenous Peoples in Canada in their own land by our governments and by churches.  And, importantly, reflection on how the rest of us can help Indigenous people heal and move forward.  And how we can form respectful partnerships as they move forward and we all move forward together.

One of the many things I love about this imperfect country called Canada is our commitment to multiculturalism, enshrined in our constitution, which supports and encourages “cultural freedom” for all cultures and ethnic groups that come to our country and add vitality to our society.  Such a lofty aspiration – in my books – but there is no way this works with integrity without the first inhabitants of this land being at the front of the list for support and encouragement of their cultures.  We have fallen gravely – egregiously – short in that regard and it is past time to make amends.

So, this Canada Day, please don’t think of it as having been cancelled.  Think of it as a special day of taking the time to consider what work we have ahead of us to ensure that we become the country we aspire to.  Think about what each of us can do to help Indigenous people feel supported and respected right across Canada.  Think of how much more we’ll all have to celebrate as the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations start making real progress.

This year in my town of Fredericton the First Nations in New Brunswick held a Resilience Day, to which all non-indigenous allies were invited.  It was a full day of activities, and an oldster like me didn’t have the stamina for the full schedule.  But I did attend the healing walk and the ceremony at the Lieutenant Governor’s House, which included the placing of children’s shoes to honour those lost.  It was very moving to see hundreds and hundreds of people come out.  In fact, every aspect of the event was very moving.  My hope is that the First Nations people found the day moving and also empowering.  And I so hope that they felt supported.

Resilence Day Poster

Somehow I missed the 5:30 a.m. sunrise ceremony (!) and a drum ceremony at 10:00 a.m., but I was among the multitudes who gathered at the Public Library and walked the Healing Walk along the Wolastoq (aka St. John River) to the Lieutenant Governor’s House.

ResilienceLibrary1

ResilienceLibrary3

ResilienceWalk2

I was among the throng who gathered at the LG’s to hear moving words from Wabanaki elders and watch first the women and then the men lay shoes they had brought to honour the lost children, after which they knelt in prayer for a moment.  One of the men who had brought children’s shoes to lay was our premier. (Oh, and for those readers who aren’t Canadians and may be wondering, orange shirts are a symbol of respect and mourning for the lost children. Every Child Matters.)

ResilienceLGs

ResilienceShoes2

I didn’t stay for the feast and dancing, but I have it on authority that those festivities were a huge success. Thank you, New Brunswick First Nations organizers, for hosting such a meaningful and memorable day. Thank you for including your non-indigenous allies.

Happy Canada Day, everyone!

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24 Responses to A different kind of Canada Day

  1. fgsjr2015 says:

    After 53 years of life, I’ve found that a disturbingly large number of categorized people, however precious their souls, can be considered thus treated as though disposable, even to an otherwise democratic nation. When the young children of those people take notice of this, tragically, they’re vulnerable to begin perceiving themselves as beings without value. (Such psychological trauma can readily result in a debilitating drug addiction, a continuous attempt at silencing through self-medicating the pain of serious life trauma or PTSD. The pain — which unlike an open physical disability or condition, such as paralysis, a missing limb or eye — is very formidable yet invisibly confined to inside one’s head, solitarily suffered.)

    When I say this, I primarily have in mind indigenous-nation Canadians. But, tragically, such horrendous occurrences still happen on Earth, often enough going unrealized to the rest of the world; sadly, sometimes those atrocious acts are allowed to remain a buried secret. While the inhuman(e) devaluation of such people is based upon their race and/or culture, it still reminds me of an external devaluation, albeit a subconscious one, of the daily civilian lives lost in protractedly devastating war zones and heavily armed sieges. They can eventually receive meagre column inches on the back page in the First World’s daily news.

    Residential schooling (et al) was a serious attempt at annihilating native culture(s). The indigenous children’s mass graves, as sadly anticipated as the finds were (and still others are expected), must not be in vain. Rather, it must mark the start of a substantial progressive move forward for indigenous nations, especially regarding life’s fundamental necessities, such as clean air, water and food, and proper shelter.

  2. A meaningful way to acknowledge Canada Day…where we’ve been and how we act going forward. For me it was a take of reflection, and of a silent prayer for all those young souls. I hope they’re at peace.

  3. annemariewatson says:

    Many of us in America share the grief and shame that comes with great harm done to Indigenous peoples by Eurocentric Imperialism and Religious bigotry. I am thankful for your posts.

  4. It seems to me that Canada is going about it the right way when confronting its past. In our country, denial and anger are two main emotions, and I can just imagine what the outburst would be if we did something similar for the Fourth of July. No, Canada isn’t perfect, but we can look to this country for an example of the best way to confront, in Jungian terms, its shadow past.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Laurie. All countries have their shadow pasts, and not infrequently their not-so-shadow past. I guess we confront them somewhat in keeping with our national culture, or self of sense. You’re right, suggesting to Americans that the 4th of July become a day of reflection on how citizens collectively could make things (even) better would not go down well!!

  5. BernieLynne says:

    Jane your post is succinct and totally reflects how I’ve felt this month. I am happy you were able to find an activity today that had the Pause and Reflection required to celebrate this Canada Day as we come to reach the truth of knowing our true Canada. Not the one we thought we knew.

  6. To Canada, resilience, and reflection.

  7. We are living through one of the worst heat waves on record so I did not leave home for anything today. But I was gratified to learn of the subdued parade that featured many floats festooned in orange and the healing walk held here as well. Our city was built on Treaty eight lands and there is a large population of Cree, Dene and Metis in this community. I really loved everything you’ve written here. It really resonates with me. Please, God, we will find a way forward that honors all First Nations.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Yes, whatever you do, stay cool. That heat done is really scary, as are the wildfires. But I am delighted to hear that there was an Orange parade and healing walk where you are. My niece in Saskatoon hadn’t heard of one in her area and I was disappointed. We have to get this right. Canada’s soul is at stake.

      • BernieLynne says:

        I do know that there was a rally at noon with indigenous speakers and that there was a vigil on the Broadway bridge this evening. There may have been other activities but those were the two I knew about. I chose a quiet reflective day at home, also trying to avoid the 35 degree day as much as possible.

      • We are doing our best to cope with the heat. It is forecasting cooler times tomorrow. I am grateful for that even as I envision getting through one more day of it. It’s exhausting!

        Yes, Canada’s soul is at stake. Going by the feed on my Facebook I am hearte3ned to see so many allies and people letting their views be seen (Heard?) that this is NOT okay and amplifying the voices of our indigenous peoples. That gives me hope for a better tomorrow.

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Me, too. I am also heartened by the groundswell of support. Politicians, take note!

        • If they want to have a chance of re-election they WILL take notice or risk being handed their walking papers.

        • Jane Fritz says:

          I wish we more good voting options for ensuring serious action in moving this “file” forward in an effective, timely way.

        • There has not been much political will power to do anything at all to make concrete changes. Yet, with public outcry perhaps the politicians will finally sit up and take notice. I see PM Trudeau named the first indigenous person as Governor General and a woman to boot. Perhaps it was self serving on his part but I am still glad to see it. Time will tell if the messages are finally hitting home. Canadians no longer will put up with lip service.

        • Jane Fritz says:

          I was VERY glad to see that announcement. You’re right, Carol, we do have to keep speaking out or we can’t complain.

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