LETTER: Canada Day reflections

From reader Cindy McCallum Miller

Canada Day allowed a reflection on the impacts of colonialism on Indigenous People. I am a seventh generation Canadian, from U.K./ European ancestry who was never torn from my family to go to school. My education taught me about my people and their history, with little emphasis on people who didn’t share my roots. Any reference to First Nations was dismissive. We were called settlers, not invaders. We claimed the right to land that was never ours, because the system we installed said we could. We colonized despite resistance, presuming our whiteness gave us dominion to do so.

I heard of residential schools late in life, presented as religious boarding schools with volunteer attendance. I regret my lack of investigation, dismissing the experience of First Peoples as irrelevant to my life. I was shielded by the systemic racism that permeated through everything, distorting reality.

The truth slapped me across the face in recent weeks, exposing the damage of the myth I embraced. The myth that Canada was different because we were kind, compassionate people, respected for our altruism. A lifelong social justice activist, I realized I hadn’t prioritized the struggle of First Nations to the degree I should have. I was ill-equipped to understand the complexities of generational racism or acknowledge that I was inadvertently part of their oppression.

I live on un-surrendered Sinixt land. I am ignorant of the comprehensive history of this land, but I commit to learn. I will support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action and demand elected officials prioritize true reconciliation. On this Canada Day, I grieved the stolen children and loss of our collective potential. Significant change is required before Canada Day can be a genuine celebration.

Cindy McCallum Miller