What Do I Do on Canada Day???
I am not Canadian. I am Gitxsan and Carrier from the Takla Nation. My flag is the Wolf and my anthem is my clan song.
I haven’t stood for O Canada nor sang the national anthem since my early teens. This does not mean that I am not eternally grateful to those who fought in the wars that guaranteed my freedom of expression. Once I understood the impacts of colonization, especially the impacts of residential school – I could no longer honour a flag that represented the loss of our culture, land and language – a flag that represented the loss of untold number of lives due to its genocidal policies and actions.
I don’t stand for O Canada. When the “crown” recognizes our sovereignty, I may reconsider.
At 15, I signed out of the catholic church, a choice I made as I could not be a part of an institution that was built on stolen lands and stolen souls. I belong to the Creator. My Creator doesn’t abuse or kill young children.
Many Canadian friends have asked me – how can we celebrate Canada Day? I don’t celebrate Canada Day, but I do acknowledge their need to show the pride in our country they call home. Pride that right now is being marred by the atrocities committed by church and state.
How can we celebrate a country founded Prime Minister John A McDonald – whose goal was to get rid of the “Indian problem?” McDonald made it compulsory for children as young as 3 to attend residential school.
How can we celebrate a country guilty of crimes against humanity? A country that still maintains discriminatory and assimilation policies? The country of Canada is made up of the rightful owners of the lands and immigrants. Immigrants from all over the world came to Canada for opportunity and in many cases, for refuge. Canada symbolized freedom, wealth and opportunity.
One must acknowledge that freedom came at the expense of our confinement to reservations, that wealth came at the expense of the loss of our lands and that opportunity grew while ours diminished.
One of our great leaders, Chief Leonard George (Chief Dan George’s son) was asked by a non-Indigenous logger “why should I have to keep hearing about what happened in the past, I didn’t do it – why should I have to keep paying taxes while Indians don’t have to?”
Chief George answered, “In other words you are asking why should you pay for the sins of your father?” The logger answered “yes.”
Chief Leonard George responded calmly “You ask me why you should pay for the sins of your father? Maybe the better question is why should you benefit from the sins of your father?”
Now that the atrocities perpetuated on our children generation after generation has come to light, Canadians are feeling horrified, gutted, sad and guilty. One person stated, “I feel like everything I knew about our history in Canada, everything I learned was a lie – I understand why people are asking us how do we celebrate Canada Day”?
Remember the guilt you are feeling is not your guilt – don’t carry it and weigh down your heart. You didn’t abuse and kill those children. Government policies and man-made religious beliefs did.
However, now that you are enlightened – you have a responsibility to right the wrongs of the past. If you do nothing – or worse yet – perpetuate systemic racism and benefit from injustices, you are guilty.
What can you do on this Canada Day to celebrate the country you love?
- Instead of standing to O Canada – bend the knee. Just this once.
- Wear an orange shirt
- Listen to stories on You Tube or read a book on Indigenous history and people
- Research the impacts of residential schools
- Donate to Indigenous organizations near you (e.g. the Sk’ai Zeh Youth Center, etc.)
- Visit the NFB website and watch indigenous creator films. Many, if not most, are free.
- Read the Truth and Reconciliation Report, the Calls for Justice Report, the Highway of Tears Recommendations report – and work to implement just one recommendation.
- Write to your Member of Parliament urging them to stop fighting First Nation children and Residential school Survivors in court.
- Urge your Member of Parliament to adopt the Spirit Bear Plan
- Join the “I am A Witness” campaign https://fncaringsociety.com/i-am-witness
- Apologize to someone you may have hurt due to ignorance.
- Volunteer at one on the many serving organizations in the downtown core
The point is, just do something. Now you know better, do better. Reconciliation means that we are reconciling a respectful, good relationship – Canada has never had a good or conciliatory relationship with Indigenous people.
Today on Canada Day, take a moment to think about how you can develop a conciliatory relationship with Indigenous people, a strong, mutually beneficial and respectful relationship. Start with yourself and your family – your children. It has taken many generations of culture genocide to get us to this point – it will take us many generations until we can all sing that we are strong and free.