Culture

Our country's dark past

You can’t celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday without recognizing its history, writes Caitlin Tolley

The year 2017 marks 150 years since Canadian Confederation. There will be many celebrations all over country, as if every day in 2017 is Canada Day. It’s likely that Indigenous people will not be recognizing the celebration of Canada’s Confederation in the same way as other Canadians.  

When Canadians gather to acknowledge the country’s 150th birthday, it’s essential to remember that First Nations people have been occupying this territory since time immemorial. We have been abiding by our own custom laws and traditional governance structures long before Canada as a Confederation was even thought of. The reality is that Canada continues to exist and operate on stolen Indigenous land.  

After the founding of Canada in 1867, the government rapidly increased systems of assimilation through the creation of reserves, implementing the Indian Act and the operation of Indian residential and boarding schools, not to mention the mass removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities through the Sixties Scoop.  Indigenous people are still healing and recovering from 150 years of intergenerational trauma that is a direct result of targeted assimilation policies. Indigenous people have been strong, resilient and irrepressible over the last 150 years.

Indigenous activists have been saying that recognizing Canada for 150 years is like celebrating colonial power. I believe Canada needs to address the last 150 years of colonial policies imposed on Indigenous people before celebrations can occur.

As Confederation festivities take place over the year, all Canadians should be aware of how Canada was founded. There have been very dark moments throughout this country’s past that most Canadians are not aware of. We cannot foster reconciliation until there is a true acknowledgement of Canada’s dark history. Canadians need to know why some Indigenous people may choose to not participate in the celebration of Canada’s Confederation. The choice is up to all Indigenous people to decide if and how they want to engage in these celebrations.  

This year, I challenge all Canadians to learn more about Canada’s true history. I challenge all Canadians to read the reports listed on the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions website. I challenge all Canadians to examine the 94 Calls to Action to learn more about practical ways that everyone can make a difference to foster reconciliation on a daily basis.

Image source: Library and Archives Canada

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