Celebrating Canada Differently

In the wake of Canada Day, I have been reflecting on the irony that Canada’s National Indigenous History Month is bookended by our July 1st celebrations.

I am a proud Canadian, yet the complexity and devastation of nation building has shifted my perception of this day. It has changed from a day of celebration, to a day of acknowledgment for me. It is an opportunity to delve deep and recognize the struggles that remain and will continue to remain for so many in our county. We need to actively pursue tough conversations and urgently move forward from conversation to action. Work away at it one day at a time with positive action coupled with positive intention.

Over the past two months our world has witnessed a global upheaval which have probed the fissures of our society. The crushing inequity and injustice felt by so many is now visible, raw, and powerful. The discriminatory foundations of nations called into question and are now exposed for all to see.

I am drawn to share our belief on what Canada should be, and how we can move forward together:

While we celebrate diversity, we recognize that Canada does not work well for everyone. While we celebrate democracy, recognize that not everyone has equal influence, equal power, or equal privilege. While we celebrate our many cultures, we acknowledge that power and opportunity are not equitably distributed among them. While we celebrate the natural world, we acknowledge that the environment is under constant threat.

Importantly, we acknowledge that Canada only exists as a nation, in both law, and history, because of Indigenous peoples. We acknowledge and affirm the principles of self-determination and the sovereignty of those nations with whom Canada has entered into treaties and land claims, and those who’s territorial and claims are pending or unceded. We recognize that these relationships are formative, and binding, and as much a part of the rights and obligations of our nation as the British North America Act, the Constitution, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

How can we be better partners with the First Peoples, in whose traditional territories we live, work, and travel? How can we support local economies sustainably, create more opportunities for multi-cultural engagement, and be better stewards of the natural world together?

All these questions add up to one thing: how can we be better Canadians? Now, more than ever, we have the opportunity to ask, to listen and to make the changes needed.

July 1st has a different significance in Canada’s youngest province, Newfoundland and Labrador. Prior to confederation the people of Newfoundland and Labrador answered the commonwealth’s call during the first world war. The men of the Newfoundland Regiment paid dearly at Beaumont Hammel on the River Somme in 1916. the consequences are far reaching for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. This piece in the Globe and Mail on Memorial Day was very moving and I thought I would share it with you.