Reasons to celebrate and reflect
Tuesday, Jul 04, 2017 06:00 am
Canadians had plenty of reasons to celebrate as we looked back on 150 years since confederation.
From the Underground Railroad that helped many slaves from the U.S. to find freedom in the north and the stunning military achievements of our then-fledgling armed forces that secured during the First World War victory at Vimy Ridge where our more powerful allies had failed at great cost, all the way up to significant scientific contributions to the global community such as the electron microscope and the famed Canadarm that to this day sees use in space operations, the country’s resume has plenty of positive highlights to be proud of.
Even basketball and hockey are often attributed to having roots in Canada. And poutine! How could a list of Canadian contributions be complete without mentioning poutine?
On a more serious note, however, there are also undeniably many causes for sober reflection as we look towards the future. We cannot focus only on the positive elements of our country’s brief but rich history, letting the dark chapters be eclipsed by nationalism and patriotism at the expense of Canada’s indigenous peoples.
There have recently been numerous people throughout the country reminding us that not all of the stories since the arrival and subsequent actions of European settlers are necessarily worth celebrating.
Treaties that were signed largely to appease First Nations peoples into submission have all but been neglected or outright ignored, and the U.N. has pointed out that the state of reserves are tantamount to developing world conditions in which residents in many cases do not even have access to clean drinking water.
Then there is the Truth and Reconciliation Report, which essentially acknowledges our country embarked on a quest to commit cultural genocide, essentially kidnapping children from their parents and forcing them into residential schools that sought to erase their heritage and assimilate them.
So some protestors have understandably dedicated efforts to raising awareness about what has often been a rocky relationship with aboriginal cultures that were nearly annihilated.
“We recognize that over the past decades, generations, indeed centuries Canada has failed indigenous peoples,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently in response to protestors, urging Canadians to respect the groups who did not want to take part in traditional celebrations.
What remains to be seen is whether the Liberal Party’s leader plans to take meaningful actions other than staged photo ops.
“If we can afford a $500 million birthday party we can afford equality for kids,” said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, in a recent Reuters article.
Although we certainly wish that everyone enjoyed some festive celebrations this long weekend, we also hope some time was set aside to recognize there remains plenty of room for improvement.
— Simon Ducatel, Round Up editor