canada day? an Indigenous perspective
With Canada Day looming just around the corner, you might feel the need to express your love and admiration for this country. If you’re going to wish me a happy Canada Day, don’t.
Canada only exists because colonizers came onto our land, slaughtered our people, and then claimed it as their own. Canada is is only 152 years old, but our ancestors have been here over 12,000 years. By celebrating this “holiday”, you are celebrating the genocide of our people.
You are celebrating the bureaucratic destruction of our land and our culture. You are celebrating the government having control of almost every aspect of Indigenous peoples lives. You are celebrating babies being taken away from their mother because her husband died and a superintendent decided she wasn’t “fit” to care for them alone. You are celebrating residential schools. You are celebrating Indian* hospitals. You are celebrating assimilation. You are celebrating the fact there are still reservations without access to clean drinking water. You are celebrating the continued destruction and encroachment upon what little land we do have left for pipelines and fracking.
You are celebrating a country that promises our people hope and then snatches it back with no warning (yet you call us “Indian givers”). You are celebrating generational trauma inflicted upon us by the Canadian government. You are celebrating living in a country where Indigenous women are 16% of the murder victims but only make up 4% of the population. You are celebrating a country where it’s Prime Minister who wore Blackface dons a headdress while taking back the promises he made to our people.
You are celebrating our death.
The people in this country hold it in such high regard. There’s always an air of snobbery in that it’s so much better than the United States; that’s the litmus test. As long as we look better than the States we are doing alright. Canada didn’t have slaves. Canada has a better health care system. Canadadidn’t elect a rapist, racist president. While these seem like reasonable assumptions, if you’re going to look at all of the atrocities the United States have committed, you have to be willing to look at Canada with the same level of dedication.
Canada denied Chinese railroad workers and First Nations people the right to vote.
Canada is always portrayed as the safe haven for slaves fleeing the US via the underground railroad, but prior to this, there was a 200 year period where people in Canada owned, bought, and traded slaves. The founder of McGill University, James McGill, was a slave owner. Two-thirds of all slaves in Quebec were Indigenous.
Canada ranks last in hospital wait times among countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and 15% of all Canadians don’t have a family doctor.
Canada’s Prime Minister has broken so many of the promises he made during his electoral platform that he’s become a joke. We’ve all heard of the $215,000 trip to the Bahamas paid for by Canadian tax payers. He claimed he was going to make Canada a greener country, but instead some fossil fuel subsidies are going to remain in place until 2025; he is pushing forward with the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. He talks about reconciliation but condones the arrest of Indigenous protesters. He approved the Kinder-Morgan pipeline despite knowing the damage it would do to the environment, and the hope of reconciliation.
Canada is a racist country. If you’ve ever lived in or around Vancouver, the disdain for Asian immigrants is palpable. Racism toward Indigenous people is something Canada-wide. It’s not only systemically racist; a glimpse at the comment section of any article, post, or news story about Indigenous people demonstrates the high percentage of people that think we should just “get over it”, and that it happened “so long ago”. The undercurrent seems to be that most people believe Indigenous people are whiny, lazy people leeching off of the government.
53% of Canadians say the country spends too much time apologizing for residential schools. More than half of Canadian’s believe that Indigenous people would be much better off if they integrated into Canadian society, even if it means sacrificing their language and culture. However, one of the things I’ve learned through the responses to my writing, is that most Canadians have little to no understanding of what Indigenous people go through in Canada, or what we’ve been through, historically.
If Canadians feel so strongly about the lives of Indigenous people, and Canada’s role in it, perhaps they can put forth a modicum of effort to try and understand exactly what the country has done and is doing to our people, and why things are the way they are. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of people in this era have an empathy problem, and would rather turn their noses up and their backs on people in crises than attempt to understand the struggles they are going through.
So while you’re out with your Canadian flags, yelling in the streets, setting off fireworks, and painting your kids faces, think about what it took for you to get here. Is the genocide of our people worth it? Please, take the time to really consider what it is you are celebrating.
Are you still proud to be Canadian?
originally published on Medium.com, 2019, amended in zine “pure colonial rage“, written by bailey macabre