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The Moral Dilemma of Canada Day 

July 1st marked Canada Day, the 157th anniversary of confederation in 1867. For so long, people across the country celebrated wholeheartedly, proud of their flag and country. In today’s day and age, as we work to address reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people, the interpretation of Canada Day has changed for many, but not all.

For some, it is still a day of pride and celebration. After all, there is still plenty in this country to be proud of, like our freedom of expression, same-sex marriage and freedom of religious expression. For others, it is a day of remembrance of the horrific erasure and persecution that Indigenous people here have faced since European settlers arrived hundreds of years ago.

“No matter where you are, I hope you’re celebrating the incredible people, the land, and the story that is Canada,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a video posted to X.  

“It’s a story that began more than 157 years ago with Indigenous peoples who called this place home since time immemorial,” Trudeau mentioned early in the video before quickly moving on. “It’s a story that includes injustices. Ones that we are confronting on our shared path of reconciliation,” he later said.

Trudeau described Canada as “a country where everyone has a fair shot no matter who they are, where they come from, how they pray or who they love. Those are the values that hold us together as Canadians.”

The sentiment Trudeau described is one seen commonly across the country. While many are proud of our nation, it is no longer possible to ignore the reality we have each been confronted with regarding the harm caused by the founding of Canada on this land. Collectively, Canadians continue to hear the stories of residential school survivors while also understanding the harm of the child welfare system today. Canadians see, now more than ever, how marginalized Indigenous people have been historically and in many ways still are today.

Around the Forks Market were many Canadian flags and bright red t-shirts, many of which had a big maple leaf square in the centre. There were nearly as many orange shirts which said things like “Truth and Reconciliation” and “Every Child Matters.”

At the Forks Market in Winnipeg, several different areas propped up celebrating Canada Day. In the main market, running all day, were hand drumming workshops hosted by Elder Barb Neepinak and throat singing performances put on by the Tunngasugit Inuit Resource Centre. This was a part of many other pieces of celebration, each culturally and communally unique. Having Indigenous people as active participants in the celebrations is a positive step forward. While we celebrate the day, we must also remember the past.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights was packed on all eight floors, as there was no charge for anyone coming in on Canada Day. Inside, viewers will find all sorts of stories pertaining to the struggle of Indigenous Canadians. The museum allows free entry for Indigenous people year-round.

The museum has faced immense criticism for choosing to build in the area they chose as a result of the immense Indigenous history in the area and the artifacts which will never be recovered beneath the massive $350 million building. Prior to the museum being constructed near where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers come together, over 600,000 artifacts were dug up in the area. In two stages of searching the area between 2008 and 2012, many artifacts were found, dating back 900 years.  

Varying across the country in the last ten years has been one’s patriotism and pride in their country. Many are still quite proud of Canada, while they are fully informed of the harms caused by our government over the last century and a half.

“Canada Day to me is a reminder of the day I landed in Canada as a newcomer, a reminder of my homeland I had left behind,” said Somia Sadiq, Founder of Narratives Inc., via email. “It’s a reminder of the tough journey in Canada as a Muslim woman of colour.”  

While appreciating her perspective, Sadiq is also aware of the history Canada is still working to make amends for.

“It is also a reminder of the Indigenous lands I am a guest on. It is an opportunity to reflect on what it means for us to walk on the path of reconciliation and my role in it each day. Canada Day is a reminder of the work ahead to honour our collective history and our collective future.”

Posted to Narratives’ site is a piece describing Canada Day in the era of Truth and Reconciliation. Segments of the article describe truth and acknowledgement, trauma to land, including the continuation of practices which affect the land, a new perspective of Canada Day, and a section referring to points we ought to collectively reflect on: “Where is your electricity sourced? What ecology formally existed where you live?”

An important measure of how Canadians feel is whether or not we feel as though we belong here. A 2023 study published by Statistics Canada shows that nearly three-quarters of Canadians polled said they feel a sense of belonging in Canada. One in five people polled had a weak sense of belonging. A picture of Canadian pride can be inferred from this, and the demographic breakdown is even more telling.  

The study referred to 8.4 million Canadians having settled in Canada from another land, 77 per cent of whom reported feeling a sense of belonging in Canada, higher than the 70 per cent of people born here who reported the same.  

Another tell-tale indicator of opinions came from the question of whether or not individuals were truly proud to be born in Canada. Ninety-three per cent of those 75 years and older reported they were proud to be Canadian, while only 78 per cent of those between 15 and 24 years old reported the same. While this is a stark difference, there are several contributing factors, including greater education among young Canadians about the history of racism involved in decision-making by the Canadian government and a greater sense of unity and patriotism that came after the two world wars.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre took the opportunity to describe Canada as a state in disrepair.  

“Weird, woke obsessions divide our people, destroy our education, disparage our history and degenerate into our streets,” Poilievre said in a nearly 4-minute video posted to X. “All of these problems, every single one of them come from the top.”

Poilievre went on to mention that Canada was built by “the common people” who would take back control to make Canada the freest country in the world.

“Our past was built by, and our future belongs to, these common people,” Poilievre continued.  

He spoke of the blue-collar worker, the troops, firefighters, police officers, trades workers and farmers (sure to cut to scenes from an apple orchard), but at no point in any post on Canada Day did he make mention of Indigenous Canadians. He did, however, title one X post: “Here’s to our home and native land.”

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

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