It is a holiday in Canada today, though many have chosen not to observe it. Today we celebrate the 154th anniversary of the founding of the nation. Or some of us will.
There are those who say there is nothing to celebrate. Last year most events were canceled due to COVID-19. This year COVID is still a factor, but even more prevalent is the suggestion all celebrations should be canceled in solidarity with Canada’s indigenous peoples.
Canada’s First Nations have been much in the news recently. No matter where you live, you heard about the discovery of the graves of 215 indigenous children on the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia, and another 751 in Saskatchewan.
It is a complicated story, one that perhaps we can delve into another day. Children died while in government care. Government policy was inhumane. Families were split apart and the trauma continues today. It has been only about 25 years since the last of the residential schools was closed; there are still many alive with first-hand experience of the system.
As a nation we are perhaps entering a time of long overdue dialogue with our indigenous peoples that can lead to better understanding, followed by reconciliation. I don’t know how that is going to play out – emotions are pretty raw these days from COVID. I’d say now is not the time for serious discussion, but at the same time, if not now, then when?
Today though, I am not convinced that failing to recognize what is good about Canada serves any good purpose. Refusing to celebrate what is good about this country because of something bad seems to be mixing issues.
We are not a perfect nation and we are not led by perfect people. Never have been. But a birthday is a time for celebration, and we can all use a good party, even if pandemic rules mean we can’t get together. Tomorrow we can get back to serious things. Maybe we’ll be better able to deal with those because we lightened up for a day.
Ordinarily I’d celebrate the day with a museum visit – national museums are free on Canada Day. Except during pandemics of course. Today they are all closed. Public transit is free in Ottawa for Canada Day, but the fireworks will be virtual, so what is the point of going downtown?
It has been four years since I was last in Canada for Canada Day. In 2017 I went to Parliament Hill and joined in the celebrations. This evening I will be at home with family instead of going somewhere.
I’ll still be thankful for this country though. It may be imperfect. We have a history that needs to be addressed, wrongs that should be righted to allow us to live up to our ideals – but it is a lot better than many other places I could name.
Canada is a work in progress. Let us not cancel it. Let us work to make things better for everyone.