Oh, Canada

If you live in Canada, you may have heard that our nation is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Actually, let me rephrase that: if you live in Canada, you’d be hard-pressed to not know that we are celebrating our 150th anniversary. If I had a Royal Canadian Mint special-edition glow-in-the-dark coin every time I heard, saw or watched an advertisement for Canada’s upcoming birthday (one literally just played on Spotify as I typed that), I would be rolling in money.

This week, the Algoma University Students’ Union voted unanimously to not sanction or endorse events associated with Canada 150. Why? The university was once the site of a residential school, and, according to the Toronto Star, the student union president said that the decision was meant as an act of solidarity with Indigenous students at the school.

As the introduction of the Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada states: “For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious and racial entities in Canada.”

For some, Canada 150 is a celebration of a nation with an established reputation as a peacekeeper, a country with open arms for refugees and a country that fought in two world wars to support freedom. For others, Canada 150 is a celebration synonymous with a legacy of colonialism, genocide, racism and injustice.

Canada projects itself as a “global human rights beacon,” Christie McLeod writes in an article for Maclean’s. Yet within our own country, we have often failed to recognize and uphold the same rights we purport to champion on the global stage. McLeod gives the example of Canada introducing the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which would see states have an obligation to intervene when other states fail to protect their own citizens from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This doctrine asking states to take action against genocide was announced in 2001—just five years after Canada’s last residential school, an example of government-funded cultural genocide, closed.

For those of us not negatively impacted by Canada’s colonial history, it’s dismally simple to see our country as a glorious land of justice, equality and human rights. But we should reflect on the fact that some 6,000 children died at Canadian residential schools, and that thousands more have had to live with the consequences of being stripped of their culture, community and dignity. We should also remember the current suicide crises in Indigenous communities and the “third world” conditions of water advisories on reserves. There are issues which all of us—Indigenous, and non-Indigenous—can play a part in working to solve.

There are, of course, many good things to say about Canada; so as we consider what we are really celebrating as Canada turns 150, we should remember that there are actions we can all take to make Canada an even better for everyone who calls it home.


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23 thoughts on “Oh, Canada

  1. Hey Sherina a just started this yesterday and was wondering if you had any advice I followed you follow back?
    I enjoyed the post.
    This year I’m in charge of a Canada Day Parade and music event I’m pretty stoked!!
    GO CANADA GO
    HAPPY CANADA DAY EVERYONE!!!!!

    1. Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging! 🙂 I think my best advice is to interact with other bloggers (which you’re already doing, yay!), and keep blogging for YOU despite all of the numbers and statistics that can sometimes be discouraging. Best of luck! 🙂

  2. Will you marry me? Adopt me? Provide me with fake IDs so I can live in Canada?

    I’ve traveled extensively in your country and here is my comparison with the good ol’ USA.

    Canada: metric system, USA: what exactly do they call our system? stoopid?

    Canada: Curling. Much more exciting than American (sorry!) baseball.

    And finally, how could I not include this match-up: Justin Trudeau versus Donald tRump. Just the fact that I put Trudeau first should give you a hint.

    Well, I do live 55 miles southeast of Vancouver, so at least I’m close. For the record, though, your national anthem is spelled: O Canada. Leave out the “h” and you’ll be good!

    1. Haha, there are certainly a lot of comparisons between Canada and America where, especially in this current political climate, Canada would come out on top. And I know how my national anthem is spelled—my title is a play on words, not meant to be the same as O’ Canada. Thanks for reading!

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  4. Excellent entry Sherina. I’d just finished watching Canoe (https://youtu.be/x9b8iOjXZWE) and asking my sister if they were playing it as a prelude or as part of the 150 – 150 celebration @ Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. To my surprise, she indicated she hadn’t seen the film (and she works for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport). In a way, it reminded me of the last segment in the film when ​Gail Bannon (The Mentor), a self-proclaimed “2nd Gen Residential School Survivor” shared her inspirational experience of creating a birch bark canoe by engaging her community’s youth in such a powerful way with the natural resources: even in obscurity marvelous things happen.

    We’ll be witnessing more inspired Indigenous youth this summer play an important role in the reconciliation process as the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) take place in the GTA & Six Nations from July 16-23rd.

    This is in direct response to answering the TRC Call to Action Number 88 — which specifies the Canadian government support indigenous athletic competition such as the NAIG. With no economic incentive, the Games 14 events are free with the expressed purpose of providing a stepping stone in the ongoing reconciliation process by uniting people of different backgrounds to celebrate athletes and communities in groups that have long been marginalized in Canada.

    My hope is by welcoming more than 5k participants, a teeming number of spectators and a dedicated staff of approximately 2k volunteers from across North America, we can play a small part in all being members of #Team88 and also embracing 150 years of confederation.

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! I have not seen Canoe, but I have added it to my list to watch. I wish more educational experiences, especially about the history of Indigenous Canadians, was part of the Canada 150 celebrations. I also hadn’t heard of the NAIG—I think that’s awesome and I hope the Games receive coverage in Canadian media so that more people can learn about the event!

  5. I hope everyone had a good Canada Day. For those non-Canadians, Happy July 4th. I found out about Canada’s 150th birthday from Alex Trebeck when I watching Jeopardy the day before yesterday since he is Canadian. He even said about partying for about 5 days. Sound good to anyone?

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