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JIGGENS: Many Canadians in no mood to make merry

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This week we recognize Canada Day – the day that marks the anniversary of our country’s confederation. Unlike previous years, however, many Canadian municipalities have chosen not to “celebrate” Canada Day.

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Such traditional festivities as parades, fireworks displays and dressing up in red and white are being dispensed with this year in many locales from coast to coast, and COVID-19 isn’t the primary reason for this change in direction. Municipalities that have officially opted out of celebrating Canada Day this year find it difficult to extol pride in our country’s heritage and achievements after being reminded all too well in recent weeks of one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history.

The discovery of unmarked graves of Indigenous children at former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan has put a damper on what should otherwise be a day of joyous celebration. Canadians with consciences are in no mood to make merry when not even 10 days ago hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered at the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. This was on top of a similar discovery made in Kamloops, B.C. a little more than a month ago.

Canada has developed a reputation for itself as a friendly, safe and caring country, and one that has contributed significantly toward the betterment of the world. But, we have some skeletons in our closet that we can no longer just simply sweep under the carpet.

Communities wishing not to commemorate Canada Day this year in the traditional sense would rather mark the occasion by reflecting upon how thousands of Indigenous families were torn apart by the residential school system during its decades-long run. It’s incredible to think that a country as seemingly advanced as ours could have adopted such a system in the first place.

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Some municipalities are torn about how Canada Day should be observed this year. They’re not oblivious to the stark reminder of our headline-making dark history, yet want to allow their citizens a chance to return to a sense of normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic – especially with case numbers continuing to fall and restrictions loosening.

However one plans to observe Canada Day this week, it would seem “un-Canadian” to not take a moment to reflect upon these tragedies of years past and understand that we need to do better – not only in our treatment of Indigenous peoples, but all Canadians.

This isn’t to suggest that we shouldn’t be displaying our flags with pride this week or singing O Canada. We can’t ignore the fact that we’re Canadian. It’s possible to observe Canada Day by taking the time to pause for a moment and reflect upon our shortcomings of years gone by, but then realize how lucky we are to be living in this country and start celebrating our Canadianism.

The past 15-plus months have been especially trying, and it’s been more than just COVID that has knocked us back a peg or two during this period. But, like Remembrance Day, when we pause to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in freedom, we celebrate our Canadianism afterward. Perhaps we can follow that template this Canada Day.

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