I’ve never been overtly nationalist, and I’ve never really felt the need to engage in a public display of affection for my country of birth: Canada. Having travelled throughout the world, nationalism has always bewildered me, made me feel uncomfortable to some extent, but on rare occasion – though there’s been a few — I’ve found pleasure in seeing others proudly parade their national colours. This is only when I’ve felt that it’s a sort of inclusive festivity open to all, a celebration of sharing instead of a chest-boasting competition that emanates close-mindedness and some form of repressed aggressively.
All this to say, I’ve rarely celebrated any national holiday, that supposedly I would be entitled to through my array of nationalities and divergent cultural backgrounds. But this year more than ever, I will not celebrate Canada Day.
This year more than ever the Canada Day celebrations seem void of any substantial meaning. But I can understand why this Conservative government would strive with such ardour to mark the 147th anniversary of the signing of the British North American Act. For the Conservatives, those were the golden days, and if they could revert Canadian society back to that point in time they certainly would.
In the first place I never really related to Canada Day because I don’t relate to exercises in nationalism in general. Once I dug deeper into the symbolic meaning of Canada Day, I truly disassociated. The celebration of Canada Day is the celebration of a certain vision of Canada, an antiquated one. It’s a vision of Canada that does not include a majority of current population of Canada, and that doesn’t take in account the peoples that lived on this soil prior to colonialism.
But given the recent Conservative agenda, Canada Day for me this year has become much more significant than previously. This year Canada Day isn’t just a misfit, an anachronistic celebration; it’s unfortunately become the manifestation of a Canada in which colonialist attitudes are still rampant. Its a celebration of a country in which too many are marginalized and disenfranchised, relegated to the sidelines of society, and stripped of their voices within the Canadian political arena.
The question that must be asked as the Canada Day celebrations are in full-swing is what are we celebrating exactly? Are we supposed to celebrate our allegiance to the flag and to the institutions, the Canadian government? Or are we supposed to celebrate the diversity of this country, the principals and values that Canadians cherish, the potential that resides within this population, this land?
How can we celebrate Canada Day or Canada, when Indigenous communities are in a dire fight to defend their right to their land that was supposed to be guaranteed under the Canadian Confederation. If the 1st of July 1867 is to mean anything to Indigenous communities of Canada, it is certainly a promise to build a nation to nation relationship, a confederation that would include and shape itself with First Nations. Canada Day indirectly is the celebration of a string of broken promises towards our native sisters and brothers.
This 1st of July should serve as a reminder of the shortcomings of the Canadian state in these past 147 years, but also as a reminder that Canada has changed and that as long as we do not built a sustainable relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities throughout Canada. Canada Day will be but the celebration of a colonial system that might have changed in appearance, but is rather far off from changing in substance. If we truly want to celebrate the diversity of Canada, then we must strive to craft a confederation in which Canadians of all backgrounds are represented, not only Caucasian Canadians of European decent.
We must dissociate the celebration of Canada from the colonial system that was prevalent in 1867. It is my hope that it will be one of the steps forward toward decolonization. Thus the best way to celebrate Canada is to resist… resist the Northern Gateway Pipeline for example.
A luta continua.