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Canada Day: Celebrate or Not



Article written by Denise Young, WIL National Diversity and Inclusion Advisor and CEO and Consultant of Tiger’s Eye Advisory Group.


Canada Day is coming up and it will be a July 1 like no other. Many people will be waving their flags at half mast, if at all, and others will be confused not sure what to do knowing that with the discovery of over 1,300 unmarked graves from residential schools, that our history is flawed. Therefore if we celebrate Canada Day this year, are we being disrespectful to our Indigenous communities, who are in a deeply emotional and traumatic time?


Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is about understanding all perspectives and I believe that researching various perspectives on the Canada Day Celebration debate is important especially this year.


“This year, more than ever, Canada Day invites Canadians to show empathy, understanding and resilience. It also offers an opportunity to reflect, reaffirm our commitment to address systemic racism and discrimination, and learn from each other with open hearts and minds. Most importantly, Canada Day allows us to hold a truthful, reconciliatory and inclusive dialogue while strengthening the ties that unite us and looking toward our country’s future with hope and confidence while acknowledging darker episodes of our history.” “We recognize that for many Canada Day is not an occasion to celebrate,” (Honourable Steven Guilbeault).


Many believe that celebrations should be cancelled as “celebrating Canada Day is being seen as inconsiderate to all the children’s lives that were lost and we encourage everyone to consider the price these children had to pay at the hands of the Canadian government” (Chief Bobby Cameron of the Saskatchewan Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations) .


Other’s think that cancelling Canada Day celebrations is not the answer. “It won't solve the challenges that Indigenous communities face”, says Ellis Ross, a member of the legislative assembly in British Columbia who is a member of the Haisla Nation. “I do acknowledge the past. I lived it. My parents went to residential school...But I can't just sit back and watch Aboriginals suffer the way they've been suffering for the last 50, 100 years with all their social problems. I've got to be the one to be the bad guy and say, 'No, something's got to be done in real terms to address our social problems.'


Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme was asked about his perspective on cancelling Canada Day. ”I would never tell somebody what to and what not to celebrate. You know, in 2021, we all inherited this. Nobody today created residential schools. Nobody today created the Indian Act. Nobody today created the Sixties Scoop. But we all inherited this. And if we want to say we're proud Canadians, then we will accept the beautiful country we have today, and we will accept what we all inherited. And what I would challenge is: Everybody on Canada Day in this country, if you say you're a proud Canadian, read the Truth and Reconciliation 'Calls to Action.' If we can all own those a little bit in this country, in one generation we would overcome so many challenges today, that our next generation won't inherit this"


My personal outlook on this is that it is not about “cancelling” Canada Day. This is about not having fanfare and waving flags at a time when our country is hurting. It is about celebrating with respect. It is about acknowledging the pain and trauma that our Indigenous sisters and brothers have gone through. Be proud of being a Canadian, this is not about “shaming”. Canada is a great country but also has pieces that have been harmful. I believe we need to celebrate being Canandian but not in the usual way we do, especially this year. We can celebrate by understanding and learning about our history.in order to come together as a Nation.