Canada is gearing up to celebrate 150 years this summer with several events planned across the country. Fireworks, parades, a ‘ready, set, fire’ event where participants will have the opportunity to shoot a vintage gun in Nova Scotia, and a festival on the confederation bridge in P.E.I. are few of many events planned to celebrate Canada as a unified country. It leaves me to wonder though, what are we really celebrating?
Canada — at that time made up of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia — became a confederation on July 1, 1867. The remaining provinces joined over time, with Nunavut as the last territory in 1999. Regardless of the specific timeline of when Canada became a completely unified country, its history has not always been perfect. The destruction of aboriginal cultures since confederation is a very dark part of Canada’s past, but nonetheless must be recognized during this celebration.
Canada is as much a country of amazing feats, as a product of colonization. Residential schools, the destruction of languages, culture, and land, and the continuing ignorance of the plight of many native peoples in our country are few of the many hurts aboriginals have suffered.
On Canada’s 150th birthday, take a moment to pause and meditate on the complex challenges that aboriginals have experienced as Canadian citizens and as a culture. Lead singer of Tragically Hip, Gord Downie, is certainly leading this push to recognize Canadian aboriginal culture, recently putting on a Secret Path performance that focuses on indigenous issues in Canada. He also announced a project for restaurants and public spaces to dedicate legacy rooms to aboriginal issues across the country as a way to celebrate 150 years.
Want to learn more? The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation opened in 2015, and demonstrates the history of aboriginal affairs in Canada. There are millions of records of violence towards Canada’s indigenous peoples and is a worthy place to visit in honour of Canada’s 150th year celebration.
At the same time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is making efforts to recognize native issues to celebrate 150 years. Funding of $1.8 million was announced for the Reconciliation in Action: A National Engagement Strategy and focuses on reconciliation efforts. Indspire is a speaking tour that represents exceptional indigenous youth and the government gave 200,000 dollars to the initiative. Support of these projects is included in the overall budget for the 150 years celebration, but there is much left for the Federal government to remediate relations with Canadian aboriginals.
Canada has been a confederation for 150 years, but has been home to aboriginals for much longer. It is important to take a moment to pay our respects to the true forefathers and foremothers of our country, and remember the true history of Canada, including the past we are ashamed of.