Will I celebrate Canada Day tomorrow?
I've always been a proud Canadian, although not in a "my country, love it or leave it" way. This is a physically beautiful land, we've made important decisions along the way regarding health care and social services for all, and while our democracy may be imperfect I don't take electing public officials for granted. I still get misty-eyed when singing our sensibly revised national anthem and I admire those who have served their country in conflicts around the world. Each year we put up our Canadian flag in the front yard.
Over time I've had to acknowledge that the Canada which has allowed me to flourish as a white male born in the second half of the 20th century is not the same country which others have experienced. During my lifetime governments have apologized for the mistreatment and incarceration of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. We've acknowledged our destructive prejudices against LGBTQ2S persons with laws and practices which destroyed lives. We rejected Jewish refugees during WW2, children and women and men who died when they were returned to Europe. Canada has its own history of slavery and systemic racism.
I am not proud of any of this and it has tempered my patriotism, to be sure. I'm reluctant to rank these sins against brothers and sisters,, but perhaps the worst is the way we have harmed and betrayed First Peoples in the vast area we call Canada. Treaties were established only to be broken and land was stolen. Children were forcibly removed from their families and their innocence was violated by church and state. Missing Indigenous women and children were considered disposable by our dominant culture and those entrusted with investigating their disappearance failed.
Most media outlets no longer allow comments on Indigenous stories because the racist responses are so vile. Many Indigenous communities do not have adequate housing or potable water. One of the denominations which ran Residential Schools can't bring itself to apologize, even though repentance and reconciliation are at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I listened to an Indigenous leader invite Canadians to observe this July 1st as a day of mourning, and I ask myself why I wouldn't. I'm not impressed by the leader of the Regressive Conservatives, Erin O"Toole, positioning himself as a defender of the nation, the true patriot political leader. Why did he choose to take this stance during this time of reckoning and reflection? Surely this is a dog-whistle move for those who want to uphold their colonialist views.
Here's a thought. We can reflect on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We might read the perspective of the former Moderator of the United Church, Stan McKay, who was the first and only Indigenous person elected to this role. Perhaps we could read the apologies the United Church has made to Indigenous peoples.
We put up a flag outside our home designed by Kwakwak'wkw artist Curtis Wilson which incorporates his designs into the flag which adopted in 1965. I do hope for reconciliation based on honesty and honour.
United Church Apologies
Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Act
Curtis Wilson 1980 -2019