As the long weekend came to a close, my fellow Canadians were busy celebrating #Canada150 on July 1st, while my American friends celebrated Independence Day on July 4th. These celebrations got me thinking about why we celebrate and what we are actually celebrating. Is it our national identities? The perception that our country is “the best”? A spotlight on all of the “great” things that our country has done? At times such as these, portrayals of nationalism are shown among many citizens. Many people feel proud for their country and grateful to live in a “civilized,” “responsible,” and “progressive” country in the world. Though I personally believe that the US has a much stronger national identity than Canada, I can’t truly speak for them as I am not from there; therefore, I will be focusing on nationalism in Canada and the links between nationalism and colonialism.
I know many people who feel very proud to live in this country. I, too, am one of those people. Canada embraces multiculturalism and celebrates difference. Yet, because of this diversity, I feel that Canada’s national identity is pretty weak. I mean, sure, we have the stereotypes (Tim Hortons, hockey, the cold, igloos, moose, toques, ‘eh’, etc.), but I personally feel that these stereotypes are not what defines me as Canadian. Rather, I am glad that Canada is a multicultural mosaic where everyone is welcome. I think celebrating this acceptance as our national identity is more important than trying to figure out what “being Canadian” really means.
However. Canada Day seems to bring out the nationalistic side in all of us, and this #Canada150 was no exception. Celebrating 150 years of living in a diverse, multicultural, accepting country that is setting a good example for the world is something to celebrate. But… What about the rest of it? Are we going to ignore Canada’s colonial past? Are we going to ignore the fact that those who founded this country destroyed the lives of thousands of First Nations peoples, that still suffer to this day? Are we going to ignore the genocide that was carried out against First Nations peoples and culture, such that generational trauma exists and First Nations languages are dying out more and more every day? What about the terribly racist immigration policies that used to exist in Canada, where Canada would only accept immigrants from white, European backgrounds? Are we going to ignore the times when Canada was not kind, accepting, and a good role model to the rest of the world?
Yes, Canada has made many strides. Canada has apologized for the trauma created by the residential school systems, the times Canada has turned others away, and negative policies. Canada has expanded its multicultural policies and accepted refugees from around the world. But, it is not enough. Unfortunately, racism, sexism, discriminatory practices, unequal wealth distribution and access to resources, religious persecution, xenophobia, and more all still exist in this country. Canada is a great country, but it is far from perfect, and we must not forget that. We have to be careful about what exactly we are celebrating.
We have come far, but we have further still to go. We cannot forget the past, but must recognize that the past still affects our present, which in turn, impacts our future. The future of this country depends on all of us recognizing our implications in the system and taking responsibility for our actions, taking steps forward to improve communication and living conditions with those around us, increasing our acceptance of others and decreasing negative attitudes to those who might be seen as ‘different’, and ultimately, showing love for the entire human race.
We are all responsible for creating a country that acknowledges its faults and seeks to correct them in a positive way. I encourage all of you to consider how you are implicated in colonialism in Canada and how we can make positive changes moving forward. If you have great ideas about how to do so, let me know in the comments section.