The Telegram (St. John's)
Let’s reflect and celebrate
Living in Canada is an incredible blessing. It doesn’t get much better than this in terms of quality of life and personal liberties.
But there are also dark strands woven into this nation’s fabric, notably the inhumane treatment of Indigenous people at the hands of white European settlers.
It’s a past that many Canadians are coming to terms with.
The recent discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., has brought this shameful history to the forefront and triggered a wave of sadness across Canada.
For many, this had led to a painful acceptance of how Indigenous people were treated and how we still need to do better by them. Difficult but valuable conversations about reconciliation and how we move forward have resulted. We need a lot more of this dialogue.
Out of this introspection have come calls to cancel Canada Day. It’s important to acknowledge and address the sentiment behind that. Given what the discovery in Kamloops represents, this country should indeed pause on celebrating itself.
However, cancelling Canada Day would be divisive, pitting Canadians against each other at a time when we need them to come together.
Reconciliation means the restoration of friendly relations, according to Oxford Languages. Cancelling Canada Day would do more to destroy than to repair.
Still, we need to learn about, and from, our past, and acknowledge the relationship between this country and its Indigenous Peoples needs a lot of work.
Rather than cancelling Canada Day, we suggest changing it from a day of simply celebrating the Maple Leaf to one of deeper acknowledgment.
That includes recognizing the disturbing and troubling parts of our history, honouring the freedoms and accomplishments we’ve enjoyed — as well as the high price our soldiers have paid in defending them — and realizing there is still a lot of work to do for every Canadian to feel appreciated and included.
That’s a much more profound approach to Canada Day than putting a Maple Leaf tattoo on your cheek and, pre-pandemic, showing up at a community barbecue or concert to eat an oversized redand-white cake.
To reconcile, move forward and grow, a fundamental change is necessary in our approach to July 1. There is precedent — Newfoundland and Labrador commemorates its devastating First World War losses at Beaumont-hamel on the morning of July 1 and then it salutes the Maple Leaf in the afternoon.
While some might feel there is little about Canada to salute considering past atrocities, it’s certainly worth appreciating that this is a country where we have the freedom to discuss and debate, and the moral impetus to try to fix a relationship that’s been broken for too long.
There are places where such freedoms don’t exist, or such will is lacking, and where there is no opportunity to reconcile.
Canada Day should be a day where we embrace this, where we reflect on our past and think about how we build a better country. That is Canada’s inherent greatness.