Canada at 153: Celebrate and Reflect

By: Laura Steiner
Today is Canada Day.  It’s the second straight holiday we’ve been in a pandemic.  And there has been a lot of emotion in the last month because of the find of unmarked graves on the lands of former Residential Schools.
Shock at unspeakable horrors wrought on Indigenous Peoples by our ancestors in the form of the Indian Residential Schools.  Anger, that even as we’ve started to learn better, we still haven’t addressed any of the core issues that survivors’ and their families face.  Sadness at the sheer numbers of children whose remains lie unidentified in mass or unmarked graves. The truth is a heavy burden for us all, and can leave us feeling helpless to do anything.
There has been a kind of foundational myth that Canada has always been an open, welcoming place for all. And through the events of the last few weeks, it’s proven a lie.  Worse still, a lot of us were ignorant of the truth having never learned much of it in school. The Canada that exists now, is not the same one that existed a month ago.
There is always hope for us. We can do something to start correcting our ignorance.  We can learn, by reading through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, taking Indigenous Studies’ classes or making them part of the standard curriculum.   We can listen to survivors’ stories, which might even be the most important thing because we’re honouring our collective past. We can hold our elected leaders to account.  When they say they’re going to end boil water advisories, hold them to it.  It’s unacceptable that we have them in 2021.  When funds are needed to search for bodies, there should be no hesitation.  This is the easy stuff.
The hard stuff will take decades, if not generations to fix.  The Indian Act has been in place since 1876, and it needs to go.  Untangling all of its tentacles will not be an easy job, but it’ll be worth it.  It’s going to take cooperation, and it’s time we got started.
This Canada Day we owe it to ourselves to reflect on our collective history, and begin acknowledging the its truth.  Celebrate the fact that we are discovering those children, and  that there is always hope for change.  Committing to it, is up to us.