Canada 150 and a day: We're a great country, but we can be better

July 4, 2017 - 8:07am Updated: July 4, 2017 - 7:36pm

It's Sunday night, a day after one of the largest parties this country has ever seen -- one which cost a reported $500 million.

Some of what's below you've likely recently seen or heard elsewhere, but I want to add my voice to the mix.

I've only ever done one thing on Canada Day -- celebrate. That might involve making sure I say 'eh' a few extra times, eating Timbits or taking in local festivities. This year, I still did all those things, but I did so while conflicted with a mixture of patriotism, reluctance and guilt.

On Sunday, Gord Downie told youth at a We Day event on Parliament Hill, "Now we begin a new 150 years. We leave behind the first 150 years, the ones with one big problem — trying to wipe out our Indigenous people, to take their minds and hearts, to give them the choice [to] become white or get lost. It's time to listen to the stories of the Indigenous [people], to hear stories about now. We are blessed as a young country to be able to look to the wisdom of a really, really old country."

The young country of Canada is 150 years old, plus a day or two, but Indigenous peoples have inhabited these lands for at least 12,000 years. They lived here in peace until colonialism reared its ugly head.

In this line of work, I'm lucky to have conversations with many members of the Indigenous community and it's finally hit me this year what that community has been saying for a very long time -- that the pains of the past continue to run deep and that the people who inflicted those pains were certifiably unjustified.

All that said, I decided to partake in Canada Day celebrations on Saturday, fireworks included, so I could see how I would react with these new feelings. It was additionally eye-opening observing just how many of us are seemingly oblivious to it all. Ultimately, more action is needed, both from average Canadians and our political leaders to make the lives of this nation's Indigenous truly better.

One thing you can do is read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 calls to action. Figure out some way, like writing your elected officials or getting to know people within that community or volunteering, to contribute to as many of them as possible.

Huge kudos to recent efforts by both the City of Red Deer and Red Deer Public Schools for taking steps towards reconciliation, but there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. 

Alas, we must ask why there are still reserves in this country without clean drinking water. Why are slurs and stereotypes about the Indigenous community still uttered. Why are non-Indigenous youth only just beginning to learn about residential schools? Why do fewer Indigenous have employment? Why do they make less and why is there a higher death rate amongst Indigenous yoith?

Those questions are hard to answer, but one thing is true -- more people wasted time last week complaining and/or discussing the merits of Tim Horton's Canada Day poutine donut (which by the way was only in the US) than constructively thinking about how they'll personally contribute to reconciliation.

It is okay to celebrate Canada. We've got lots going for us including free healthcare and LGBTQ+ rights, but now that we're officially into Canada's 151st year, I implore you to educate yourself and try to empathize with the portion of our population which was so incredibly wronged. It's long overdue.

For the love of everything Canadian, do not tell them to, "Get over it already." After all, the last Canadian residential school closed just 21 years ago. If they never get over that and everything else, I don't think that would be unreasonable.

I'm not asking for unicorns and lollipops -- just respect and understanding.

Here's to the next 150.

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