As Canada’s 150th anniversary approaches, in-your-face patriotism is ramping up. We’re encouraged to celebrate all things Canadian: Tim Hortons, hockey and “our home and native land.” CBC’s online video “Canada is celebrating 150 years of… what, exactly?” condenses events that led to this colonial celebration, with the acknowledgement “Indigenous people have been on this land for thousands of years,” and ending with “How old is Canada, really? Hard to say. We’re going with 150… for obvious reasons.”
Obviously… ? In 1867, the “Dominion of Canada” was created to the benefit of people who displaced First Nations. This colonization process was violent and culturally genocidal. Since then, Indigenous people have experienced land dispossession, destruction of traditional cultures and violent assimilation through residential schools. When I think about pride in who I am, identifying as “Canadian” doesn’t come to mind.
Current living conditions on reservations include inaccessibility to clean drinking water and adequate, safe housing. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission highlighted the atrocities suffered by Indigenous people in residential schools – physical and sexual abuse, and severance from families and language. Here in the West Kootenay, the bureaucratic extinction of the Sinixt people is a profound example of this brutality.
With fireworks lit, red and white flags waving, I’m still left wondering: what are we celebrating? Idle No More, a grassroots activist organization that honours Indigenous sovereignty and the responsibilities to land and water, calls us to action for Canada’s 150: it has nothing to do with celebrating. Rather, it’s a call to UNsettle the legacy of poverty, inaccessibility of education and healthcare and the effects of intergenerational trauma.
Ellen Gabriel, Kanehsatà:ke Mohawk Activist, says, “I’m not going to celebrate Canada’s theft of our lands. Until Canadians actually understand the history of Canada, the genocide of Canada, there is really nothing for us to celebrate, because we’re still struggling. ”
Apology is not enough. Accountability is required. Resources need re-allocating back to people who live in impoverished conditions. As Settler-Canadians, we need to recognize the price of our inhabitation here.
On July 1, I stand with First Nations in UNsettling Canada.