Today is a difficult day for a lot of Canadians. It’s our national holiday, which is fair enough, but our day of celebration is tainted by the horrors of the past.
I grew up in northern Ontario in a small farm community tucked well out of the way of public notice. We had a party-line telephone system and a one-room schoolhouse, which I realize makes it sound as long ago as Little House on the Prairie, but more recent generations don’t realize how simple things still were just a few decades ago.
There were two Indigenous families in the community, whose kids we went to school with. One of the families lived on the farm next to ours, so I was over there regularly hanging out. We knew nothing of residential schools, and I suppose our community was remote enough to escape the government’s notice, to our friends’ great fortune.
I was also raised as a Catholic, and judging by media comments from other Catholics, a lot of us are deeply unhappy about the Church’s reticence in both admitting their role in the residential school trauma and in offering compensation. There’s simply no excuse for not doing these two basic items of reparation.
My current local community is one of many who’ve chosen to forego Canada Day celebrations. While we can acknowledge that there are benefits to living in this country, those benefits still aren’t equitably distributed, especially for Indigenous people.
This year I think it’s more appropriate to mourn the terrible wrong that has been done to the original inhabitants of this land. After that, it will be time to create a better Canada, one that will be worthy of celebration.
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