Flags waved across Haliburton County saying hello to another Canada Day.
For many it was a long-awaited weekend with family, friends and the optimism for summer, which brings promise of swimming and picnics at the beach or backyard barbecues of hamburgers and hotdogs while for others its a time to be proud of being Canadian. However, for others such as Haliburton Highlands Secondary School alumnus and an Indigenous person Riley Maracle it’s a time of reflection.
From the story Many swapped red for orange on July 1 by Vivian Collings this week, he recognized how his family used to celebrate Canada Day “because we were happy where we lived.”
“Now, I more so use it as a time to reflect and understand that July 1, 1867 wasn’t the day that Canada was founded, it was just when a label was put on it by settlers. I reflect and remember my ancestors who suffered as a result.”
As Collings story said, this past Canada Day recognized the 155 years since the Dominion of Canada was established as a country and became a self-governing nation within the British Empire. Her story also references how there are 3,200 unmarked graves (mostly of children) at past residential school sites, as estimated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report.
So, what is to be Canadian?
Growing up I thought I was Canadian. I was born here. I was raised on Kraft singles and (for a brief time) Wonderbread and Kraft Dinner macaroni with chopped up hotdogs (before my parents realized it wasn’t the healthiest of options), celebrated Christmas like they do on television specials. I played road hockey after school, believing I was Wendel Clark of the Toronto Maple Leafs while knocking friends into snowbanks, and bicycled around the neighbourhood and pretending to be Steve Bauer, who was an Olympic cyclist and wore the fabled yellow jersey, as leader of the Tour de France.
However, despite this deeply-rooted belief, I was reminded of my otherness. It didn’t matter what I did because for all the stereotypical Canadian food I ate and sports I played or idols I looked up to, I was still of a darker complexion and represented a culture of unusual foods and practices in most eyes. Sometimes my father was told to go back to where he came from and literally taken it doesn’t really have much weight, but for my father and me it hurts to hear. It tells us we don’t belong here. We’re not Canadian.
We can’t choose our ethnicity just like we can’t choose our eye or hair colour. However, we can choose how we value and listen to others that may not look like us. Bring intention to our interactions. Enable openness of different perspectives without hostility. See what being Canadian can mean for all people who make this place a home and for those that established it long before there was a name.
This isn’t to make anyone feel guilty about celebrating Canada Day, but it is a reminder to be mindful of our past, so we can move forward to a future, unified.
We all have a need to be seen. To be valued for the people we are and to be respected so this isn’t a call to ever cancel Canada day, but to include a broader perspective of a day that means different things for different people. Our diversity is our strength and it makes Canada great.