There is no reason to cancel Canada Day
Canada Day is upon us. In recent years, particularly since the discovery of unmarked residential school graves in many parts of Canada, there have been calls to “cancel Canada Day.”
People calling for the cancellation say that by celebrating Canada Day, we’re celebrating the racism and violence many different racial communities have suffered over Canada’s history.
Except that’s not, in my experience, what most people celebrate on Canada Day.
On Canada Day, people celebrate lots of different things. They celebrate individual family histories, personal connections, and bonds of love. They celebrate our cultural heritage in art, music, film, literature, and more. They celebrate the contributions Canada has made to the world, from Terry Fox’s raising money to fight cancer to our role in defeating fascism in the Second World War, to our helping new people from all over the world find new homes after fleeing strife.
All of those things are Canada, too, just as much as its racism and violence. Calls to cancel Canada Day come across as saying we can’t morally take pride in any of those things. It’s also why I often oppose removing the statues or namings of historical figures — their roles in building our communities, making our family stories possible, and supporting various cultural groups’ becoming established in Canada can’t be separated from their legacies any more than they can be separated from their roles in racial segregation, the Chinese head tax, etc.
Celebrating Canada Day also doesn’t mean you can’t try and help make things right for Indigenous people, Muslim or Black Canadians, or anyone else who has experienced racism and abuse. If you’re familiar with my writings on Medium, particularly regarding Indigenous rights, restitution and reconciliation, you’ll know I have spent many of the other 364 days of the year advocating for recognizing Indigenous rights, showing the historical background on why things turned out the way they have, and pointing out how hard immigrants usually work to fit into Canadian society.
There are other ways to support groups trying to make things right, such as taking the University of Alberta’s free online course on Indigenous history, or donating to Indigenous organizations such as Indspire, the First Nations Caring Society, and Reconciliation Canada that work to help their communities.
Another potential danger with the idea of canceling Canada Day is that of letting the alt-right co-opt symbols of our national identity, such as the flag. Alt-right and fascist groups around the world have been skilled at positioning themselves as the only “true” representatives of their nation, building support for their warped agendas. National symbols have a very deep meaning for most people, whatever their political stripe. Taking those symbols back helps keep them out of the alt-right’s hands and shows they don’t have a monopoly on those things.
There’s no contradiction between celebrating Canada Day and working to make things right. One of the main reasons I’ve said and done the things I have is because I love Canada and I believe in what it can potentially be.
I do it because I am Canadian.
Originally published at https://www.stalberttoday.ca on July 1, 2022.