I have to confess that there have been many times when I’ve been proud and happy to be Canadian. That feeling has faded and almost disappeared over the last few years. Granted, I’d rather live here than in many other places (Russia, Ukraine, Yemen, Southern USA, to name just a few), but…
We like to have the appearance of a country that is progressive, open-minded, fair, egalitarian, non-racist, leading in environmental issues, etc. It is becoming glaringly obvious that this is often not the case. There are, of course, many fine folks in this part of the world who have all of those qualities, but there are also way too many who, in practice, display close to the antithesis of them.
One thing that I’m sad about today concerns a song that I wrote, recorded and created a video for a while back: “The Canada Song.”
I was quite proud of the message of the song and the way it turned out. I liked the fact that I used the voices of students from my Primary and Intermediate Choir in the recording (At that time, I was teaching music in a school where there were about 46 different languages spoken at home!) I took pictures from so many places in the country on a cross-Canada trip I had taken the year before and used them in the video.
It wasn’t (and isn’t) what I consider to be a patriotic song; it doesn’t talk about Canada being a country/nation, but being a land that we all live on, filled with people from all over the world, including from HERE (“don’t forget the people who were here before we came, for thousands of years, and they gave us our name”). I’m still proud of the song, but it just doesn’t feel right to do a big shout-out about it at this time. (Although, obviously, if you want to watch/listen, feel free to click the link below and please let me know what you think!)
Because of the discovery of so many mass graves on Residential School sites, pointing to the horrendous mistreatment/abuse/neglect of the children who were forced to go there (something First Nations/Metis/Indigenous people knew about all along but had no proof to back up their knowledge), I am faced with just one of the compelling reasons making it clear that I can’t celebrate a country that would turn a blind eye (at best) to that kind of behaviour. (And it’s there’s much evidence coming to light that church and state knew very well what was happening and did nothing or, in some cases, actively promoted some of the mistreatment of those children and their families)!
Plus, with the ongoing and growing problems with homelessness, and the poison drug supply that is killing so many of our citizens that so little is being done about, (we’ve lost way more lives from the toxic drug supply than from COVID!!!), with the huge disparity between rich and poor, and the continued financing of and creation/construction of new fossil fuel projects and infrastructure, without proper consultation with First Nations or proper environmental assessments, and in a time where the Climate Crisis/Emergency is glaringly obvious and present and the most recent IPCC report is saying there is NO room for new fossil fuel infrastructure, that doing so is moral and financial madness… Plus there is now the unfortunate use of the Canadian flag by a very vocal minority of folks calling themselves “freedom fighters”…with all of that, being proud to be Canadian is just not a thing I can say about myself!
However, I AM happy and very grateful to live on the beautiful, unceded, traditional territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, particularly the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ“(Tsailwatu’th) peoples, where I get to live, write, garden, learn, teach, dance and play with my friends, family and grandkids. Huy tseep q’u. Wâciye! and mîkwec (Thank you)!
I don’t think that blame is the way to healing; but I do think awareness, truth and real reconciliation are all on the path forward. Education is also a way forward; this is already happening, slowly, in schools and in the media and elsewhere. Kindness is a way forward. Listening is a way forward. True respect and collaboration are ways forward. There is much room for hope. I see so many signs of real growth and understanding, real respect, real reconciliation (not just empty words and promises) and real innovation in so many places. It feels like not enough and it feels like it may not be fast enough but…I will remain hopeful.
I will also continue to find more ways to do better myself and to make this a place to be proud of, and this time, not because I am ignorant of what’s going on but because I am aware of all the good things that are being done to make this land a place that everyone can find peace and enjoyment in.
I wish you peace and enjoyment on this day, whatever you choose to call it and in whatever way you choose to celebrate/commemorate it (unless it involves hurting or disrespecting someone else, of course!)
Happy Summer Everyone!