Monday, July 01, 2019

Dear Canada,

Happy Birthday! Today you are "officially" 152 years old.

There has been a lot of hype around your official birthday in the last couple of years. Especially during Canada 150. Like many countries around the world, you have a shadowed history with skeletons buried only as deep as last season's fashion line. I wish you didn't, true, but I can't just ignore and pretend they're not there.
An appropriate shirt for the day.

As I've been spending time away travelling through other countries and meeting all sorts of people, I've been thinking a lot about what being Canadian means to me and to our identity. Why do I celebrate Canada Day? Here is a very *very* abridged timeline:

We are a country of blended (and chaotic) beginnings. With the race for colonization and imperialism, both the French and the English fought for ownership over the land and the native populations. It was an era of nationalism and the clash of prides. That history is littered with the fragments of broken treaties and unkept promises--from multiple parties.

In the mid-late 1700s, after many battles between the French and English (with First Nation allies on both sides), France lost the war and ceded ownership of what is now Quebec to England. The lingering sentiment between the two languages and people wasn't so "easily" settled by the shake of hands and French communities were not treated as well nor always respected by the English settlers.
But who were we then? Not a country yet... Just a gathering of settlements amidst clans of aboriginal tribes in a country the English claimed as their own.

To the south, the US claimed their independence from England with the bravado and volume they have become known for world wide. We were like a young toddler waddling along next to the 19 year old moving out and off on a motorcycle while mum and dad weren't looking. There was a fear that we would be invaded and absorbed, ripped from mummy's hand. This fear, along with a number of other factors that are too numerous for this abridged account, eventually led to acquiring our own independence on July 1st, 1867. Most people in Canada often say that the US had an exciting beginning whereas we just talked and talked and talked and then became a country. If they only looked deeper, they'd see the intrigue and plotting... and the planning of genocide.

In addition to the conflicts between the English and the French (with a predominantly English government enacting discriminatory policies that limited the growth of French like in Manitoba and Saskatchewan), the government oppressed AND continues to oppress native communities through policies (ie. residential schools) and the distribution of services (communities that are without water, stable education, or goods). A quick internet search today can yield a slew of articles on injustice issues and so really, it's no wonder that your birthday gets people riled up. What are we celebrating when so many of our own people--and some of the people who've been here the longest--are being mistreated and misrepresented? That needs to change. No birthday in the world can change that.

Canada, I know you can be better. I want us to be better.

 I think of all the people who live off your land today who are from countries all over the world. Whether they've moved because they want to or maybe because they've had to, you have become a safe place and a home for many. You unites us, and in the same way, you allow many to promote and share their own cultures.

So, Canada, you are far from perfect, but today on your birthday, I want to celebrate what we have come to stand for at our core, and our potential for the future.

Love & Hugs

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