A different perspective on Canada Day.
This article was first published on July 1, 2020.
For the first time ever when I look at our flag that red and white symbolizes bloodshed to me.
For the first time when I look at that flag I see the rape, pillage, and destruction of colonization.
For the first time ever, I am asking myself what am I celebrating on July 1st instead of following along because I am supposed to.
I lean into the rage, because it's ugly, because I know anger is a catalyst for change. I take the plunge.
I used to be that girl, all 4”11 of me standing up to ANYONE who tried to put down my country, who tried to say that Canadians were just Americans. I was that girl who had tons of red and white Canadiana attire, Roots clothing and patches sewn to multiple places on my backpack. I was that girl who unabashedly declared my “Canadian” to the world.
Being Canadian has afforded me the privilege of a passport, a passport welcome in several countries, a passport that even enabled me to work and live in many countries abroad. Being Canadian has seen me have access to clean water, clean food, reasonably clean air, a bounty of trees, lakes, mountains and wildlife, education and health care. Or has it? Was it that I was afforded these privileges because of the country I was born in and the passport it gave me or was it that my olive skin came with blue eyes and light brown hair making me “white” enough to hide the Metis that is buried deep in my blood.
Today I find myself walking past the upcoming Canada Day decorations and I am shaking. I lean into the feeling, I am shaking with anger. What am I angry at? I dive in full gusto. I am shaking with rage. Sometimes I am so angry that my family hid our Metis heritage from me. I get so angry at the disconnect, the trauma, the missing pieces into who we are and how we connect with the Earth. I get so angry when I feel lost and I move to blame, first my ancestors then the government until there is room for no more blame, simply pain. Having been born with enough mixed blood to look White, I understand why my ancestors hid who we were, they had hoped that by my generation I would have no risk of being harmed for my Metis heritage.
All of these thoughts swirling bring me back to the site of the flags popping up everywhere for Canada Day. Something inside of me has broken open,
“Oh Canada Our Home and Native Land” - Please tell me this means we are singing that this land was stewarded by its Native peoples and we have begun to call it our Home too.
“True patriot love In all our sons (us) command” - Where did we put that loyal love, are we loyal to the people here when we steal their food, their land, and their access to clean water? Are we loyal to the native land when it depends on the health of its people whom we discard with ease?
“With glowing hearts, we see thee rise” - whose hearts were glowing? The colonists at the spoils they acquired on this native land as they watched their new world rise? Or was it the glow of the bleeding hearts of those who lost their way of life as the rise of colonization took place. What rise are we seeing and celebrating?
“The True North, strong and free” - Well I can get behind the North, but I neither feel strong as a country nor free. I feel weakened by lies and political allegiances that negate our humaneness and care of the Earth. I feel confined to rules and systems that abuse people and the planet and that are followed blindly even by me. This is not freedom, this is following. I am feeling shaky as I explore these feelings and thoughts.
“From far and wide O Canada, We stand on guard for thee” - what are we guarding? Our hearts from witnessing the suffering of the original habitants? Are we guarding our own agendas for the world we believe we deserve at all costs? I do not see us guarding our Earth or her stewards with love, protection, and abundant support.
“God keep our land glorious and free” - Free from what? What is free? God the Creator gave us a Glorious land and we continue to destroy it. We do not need God the Creator to keep us glorious and free, we need to return to honouring the Glory that God the Creator instilled into these lands, these waters, this country.
Why have I never questioned these lyrics?
Why have I sang out loud eyes full of tears and a heart full of pride without ever asking what I was proud of?
Am I being too literal? Maybe, but I need to question. I am not sure I have the answers to this but I suspect it comes back to my white privilege. I have an immense amount of work to do to grow and learn beyond the lens I saw through. I thought I was wide-eyed and all encompassing but I was lying to myself, I only allowed myself to believe I was not part of the problem.
I love my country. I love how blessed I am to live here, I love how diverse and beautiful our land and people truly are.
I am grateful I was born here.
I am grateful for my passport.
I am grateful to be free enough to explore these thoughts and feelings out loud.
Despite how blessed and grateful I am, I realize not all who call Canada home are blessed, many are suffering. I do not love knowing that to this day Indigenous people are fighting to get clean drinking water, to have a safe space to raise their children, and have access to lands to live their lifestyle as stewards of the Earth.
This Canada Day I am leaning into questions; questions about what I celebrate and why. Questions about what is indoctrinated and what is the Truth I dare to see, questions about what white privilege means to me and how I can do better.
What would happen if we had signs that said what the name of Indigenous Tribe’s land we were on everywhere?
What if our maps had the markings of Indigenous lands so we could honour the initial habitants constantly?
What would happen if we had signs with Indigenous names for plants and animals in provincial parks and pathways?
What would happen if instead of celebrating the winning of a war and the founding of a colony we celebrated our melting pot by building up our weaker and exploited brothers and sisters.
What if we took small action every year with displays of Indigenous art and blankets alongside our beloved maple leaf.
What would happen if we flew a flag of Indigenous peoples and a traditional Canadian flag below it or beside it.
I don’t expect to understand these feelings of mine in a day. I will keep diving in and asking questions and even asking for help to better understand what being Canadian means to me.
I will no longer celebrate just for the sake of celebration because that is turning a blind eye to suffering and I want to honour all of my fellow Canadians. I will continue to explore Indigenous owned businesses and get to know them, their struggles, their successes, their causes. I will use my social media time and votes to support them and when I can, I will buy from them too.
It's a small start, but it is a start.
If the idea of remembering whose land we are on this Canada Day strikes a chord in you and you want to use your buying dollars or your social media votes to support some of our First Nations, here is a shortlist of Indigenous Businesses whom you can choose to shop from.
Decolonial Clothing Co
Spirit Earth Holistics
Antler River Leather
Mother Earth Essentials
Lesley Hampton Collection
AND...if you have children, grandchildren and/or are interested in living an intentional life with priorities on nature and spirituality and deep community and connection, I invite you to check out our Fireweed Learning Community.