Trigger warning: discussions of colonialism, nationalism, genocide, residential schools, intergenerational trauma, and more. Please only proceed with reading this post if you are in a safe space to do so. If you are already feeling triggered, please skip to the end of this post for additional resources.
This past weekend were the major national holidays in Canada and the US: Canada Day on July 1st, and Independence Day on July 4th. These holidays celebrate the ‘creation’ of these countries every year. Today, I’ll be diving in to the Canadian context specifically, and why I chose not to celebrate Canada Day this year.
I have been struggling with celebrating Canada Day for many years. Especially since one of my first posts analyzing the intersections between nationalism and colonialism from 2017, I have been having a hard time celebrating what this country was built upon. The more I learn about the history of how Canada came to be, particularly about residential schools and the genocide of Indigenous peoples, the harder it is for me to celebrate. Yes, Canada is a pretty good place to be (especially for me as a white settler), and there a lot of things about this country that I am proud of – primarily free healthcare, multiculturalism, education, and more. But if there is anything the past year and a half has taught us, it’s that we have a long ways to go to get to the point where Canada is a free and equitable place for all.
In particular, the past couple of months have brought very heart-wrenching and triggering news to light, as the remains of many children in unmarked graves have been discovered at former residential school sites across the country. These discoveries confirmed what Indigenous communities have been saying for years: the profound genocide of their peoples, that has caused generational trauma for many Indigenous peoples. As Indigenous communities grieve in the midst of these discoveries, choosing to celebrate the very foundation that resulted in the genocide of an entire population was not an option for me, and for many who are grieving these losses.
There are many Indigenous communities in mourning at this time, and we should be mourning along with them. It is a lot to process, and no one should be celebrating the genocide that created Canada. And for those who may say that this is not the Canada that they know, or the Canada they believe – that isn’t true, because in reality, the genocide of Indigenous peoples is how Canada was created in the first place. Many of these impacts still continue to this day through the ongoing effects of colonial violence. Furthermore, this is a very recent part of our history: the last residential school closed in 1996, which is when I was born. This genocide has happened within my lifetime and within most of our lifetimes, and if you are a non-Indigenous settler living in Canada, you have benefitted from the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous peoples.
It is an uncomfortable process to recognize that as a non-Indigenous person, you are complicit in the genocide and ongoing dispossession of Indigenous peoples, as you benefit from colonialism and the creation of Canada. It should be uncomfortable, and it’s important to take the time to reflect on where you fit. Everyone who lives in Canada is a part of this in some capacity, and that reflection, sitting with the discomfort, and listening is necessary.
Fellow non-Indigenous folks, the burden is on us. I would encourage you to not push past the discomfort and rush right into ‘helping’, as you may not be helping in a way that is actually beneficial for communities and could sometimes do more harm than good. Instead, sit with it for awhile, and take the time to actually listen to Indigenous communities.
Instead of celebrating on Canada Day, I wore orange to honour the lives of the children we have lost and now found. I also donated to an Indigenous organization. I hope you had the chance to do the same, and if you didn’t, there is still lots of time to do so. I would encourage you to donate to Indigenous organizations in your community who may be in need of assistance at this time. I’ll include a list of a few options below, and I know there are many more out there – please feel free to share more options in the comments section of this post.
I acknowledge that there is still a long ways to go, and this is just the starting point to unlearning colonial violence and finding ways to move forward together. I am open to further suggestions on how to do so. Sending lots of love to the many affected Indigenous communities at this time, and mourning alongside you.
Indian Residential School Survivors Society – donate
Reconciliation Canada – donate
Orange Shirt Day – donate
24/7 IRSSS Crisis Line: 1-800-721-0066
24 hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
Tsow-Tun Le Lum Crisis Line: 1-888-403-3123
Ku-Us Crisis Line: 1-800-588-8717
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action
Please share further resources below!