Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday June 30, 2021
Make Canada Day a time for reflection
By almost any standard, Canada can be judged one of the world’s best countries. Yet its riches, rewards and life-changing opportunities are not enjoyed equally by all who inhabit this land.
By almost any estimation, Canada’s history is filled with rousing stories of courage, vision and achievement. Yet there remains a long and shameful record of past injustices — many of which have yet to be set right.
Most notably, evidence of the glaring wrongs done to the people who first called this place home is now out in full public view as never before. As shocking as the recent discoveries of almost 1,000 unmarked gravesites at former First Nations residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have been, they have also provided one more necessary jolt to this nation’s collective conscience.
All these contradictions and paradoxes explain why it is so difficult for people to know how to mark Canada’s 154th birthday on Thursday. Do we wave the flag or lower it to half-mast? More than a year into a devastating pandemic and just as the arrival of another summer offers glimmers of respite, many Canadians ache for something to celebrate, something like the festive national holiday they’ve cherished in years past.
Yet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has wisely called for this July 1st to be a more sober affair. Having reached a similar conclusion, many communities across the country have cancelled their traditional Canada Day festivities.
This is not the same as cancelling Canada Day itself, however, and no one is seriously recommending such a move that would, even for this one, fraught year alone, deny the country its nationwide holiday. But let’s also agree that after the discoveries of the graves of so many First Nations children, many Indigenous people would understandably consider the traditional celebrations with their parades and fireworks to be completely tone-deaf.
We do not anticipate a clear national consensus on the matter of July 1, 2021. Whatever people do or don’t do this Canada Day, we would only urge everyone to pause and reflect upon what Canada is, how we got here and what remains for us to do — together.
There are abundant national treasures for which we can all give thanks. Judged by our national living standard, our health care and education systems and by the enviable rights and freedoms we enjoy, it is easy to see why this is so. The land itself, in all its staggering beauty and enormity stretching across a continent, lies waiting for new generations to explore. No wonder hundreds of thousands of people from around the world arrive eagerly each year to start a new life with this goal in mind: becoming new Canadians. And how wonderful it is that they do.
But none of this can or should drown out the voices of the Indigenous people who knew and loved this land for millennia. They are reminding us daily of what we need to regret, lament and correct. For this to happen, the Trudeau government must move from reflection to taking the action it has promised for years. It continues to ignore far too many of the recommendations from the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The recent passage through Parliament of new legislation, Bill C-15, could bring overdue, transformative change by codifying with greater meaning than ever before the rights of Indigenous people to their land and self-government. But an even greater commitment to learn and change must be there, not just for our federal leaders but for all of us.
When that happens, even those who feel unable to celebrate the creation of Canada 154 years ago may be able to support something different: the creating of a new Canada today. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)