The horrific recent discoveries of remains found at former residential school sites in B.C. and Saskatchewan, with the expectation there will be more, has left many wondering whether Canada Day should be celebrated this year.
On Twitter, the hashtag #CancelCanadaDay has been trending in certain parts of the country, urging people to take the time to reflect on the country’s past and current atrocities towards Indigenous Peoples.
For others, the hashtag didn’t sit well.
The United Chiefs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCMM) recently put out a statement encouraging Canadians to use Canada Day to educate themselves about the residential school system and its impacts
"Canada Day cannot be a day of celebration for us. It is instead a day of profound sadness for us. We are in mourning for the Indigenous children killed by Canada’s system," it reads.
Canada Day is a painful reminder of the harm Canada has done and continues to do to Indigenous peoples and Indigenous children. Even today Canada continues its colonialist policies – including by fighting against the fair and equitable treatment of Indigenous children and by failing to provide Indigenous communities access to safe drinking water.The United Cheifs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising
It goes on to say that despite the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, most Canadians are unaware of the harm caused by the country's residential schools under the learned about the discovery in Kamloops.
Dr. Catherine Murton Stoehr is a historian with a focus on treaties and early colonial violence, who’s based in North Bay. She says the hashtag reminds her of a quote “A true patriot hates injustice in their own land more than anywhere else" but adds that we’re barely scratching the surface of the work that needs to be done.
“I feel like we’ve been told by Liberal and Conservative governments, who have wanted to portray Canada as moving forward in reconciliation, that this is as good as we can be,” she tells Yahoo Canada News. “We’ve hit our capacity of ethics and caring for each other. I think that’s a council of contempt and we need to reject that council and build our capacity when those things are harming the bodies of Indigenous people in this country.”
Murton Stoehr says she was concerned when she learned that #CancelCanadaDay was trending, not because she didn’t support the sentiment, but because “the worst of our monsters come out” when there’s a move towards justice for First Nations people.
“The people who have nurtured anger and resentment in their hearts then express racism, express anger at folks who don’t deserve it," she says. "Those people will get worked up when they see #CancelCanadaDay and they won’t go after nice white ladies like me. They go after First Nations folks, they’re going to pay the price.”
Should Canada try a National Sorry Day instead?
She feels that something akin to Australia’s National Sorry Day, would be impactful in Canada. Also known as the National Day of Healing, the annual event is held on May 26 with the purpose of recognizing the historical mistreatment of Australia’s Indigenous people.
“The road to celebration is through grief, when grief is called for,” she says.
Frank Lawrence, an adjunct professor of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba, agrees that there needs to be a national day of recognition, because there’s a lot of things that need to be recognized and they’re not all good. While he believes and hopes that the country’s consciousness is changing when it comes to our history of the treatment of Indigenous people, there’s still a long way to go.
“Given the amount of publicity and attention to what happened in Kamloops and other things, the consciousness of many people is changing,” he says. “Not everyone, but that’s always the case.”