There is a movement stirring across the country, encouraging Canadians to rethink the meaning of Canada Day and how we celebrate it.
As remains continue to be discovered near former residential schools, many people, organizations and even political leaders are questioning how we can celebrate a country that has historically treated its Indigenous population so atrociously.
Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg plans to cut out the fireworks and instead mark July 1 with Indigenous blessings and activities. Sol Mamakwa, an Ontario MPP, posted a video to his social media urging Canadians to reconsider how they spend their Canada Day.
An ice cream shop in Ottawa posted to Twitter, stating they would not “celebrate the ongoing colonization, oppression and genocide of the Indigenous Peoples of this land.”
Moo Shu will be closed July 1st, Canada Day.
We choose not to celebrate the ongoing colonization, oppression & genocide of the Indigenous peoples of this land. The team is spending the day w/ Anna Cote, Mike Diabo, and other Indigenous knowledge keepers at Minobideg Learning...
— Moo Shu Ice Cream (@MooShuIceCream) June 26, 2022
While many people commit to wearing red and white clothing to show their Canadian pride on July 1, in recent years there’s been a push instead to wear orange shirts. Orange shirts are associated with the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a statutory holiday that recognizes the legacy of the residential school system in Canada.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission described the country’s residential school system as “cultural genocide.”
The residential school system was in place for over 100 years, starting from 1894 to the closing of the last institution in 1997. It forcibly removes Indigenous children from their families, in order to attend boarding schools that intended to strip them of their culture and religion. Children were frequently abused, assaulted and even perished. In 2021, countless graves of children on the grounds of former residential schools were uncovered, casting a small glimpse of the injustice and trauma faced by the community until this day.
Shaneeka Forrester is the Indigenous relations coordinator for UPlift Black, a Barrie-based social impact agency. She says many Indigenous Peoples across the country have been waiting for their piece of Canada Day to be included, acknowledged or represented in celebrations that are “happening on the country that was founded on the genocide of their people.”
Forrester wants people to spend Canada Day considering the history of the country and how to be an ally.
“Everyone wants to celebrate Canada but there’s such a large dismissal of the population that was attempted to be eradicated so that this country could prosper and be celebrated,” she tells Yahoo Canada News.
She says part of reconciliation, moving forward and being an ally goes beyond land acknowledgements, wearing an orange shirt or other symbolic gestures - it needs to be action based.
When non-Indigenous people are having their barbecues and celebrating Canada, what I would like to see is more Indigenous consideration, awareness and knowledge.Shaneeka Forrester, Indigenous Relations Coordinator for UPlift Black
That includes taking time to understand issues like the water crisis that’s happening in some Indigenous communities, treaties and land disputes and why Canada has marginalized Indigenous people for so long.
“Canada is the only country in the developing world that still has race-based federal legislation,” Forrester says. “(It’s important that Canadians are) really understanding what these things mean and why these things exist today and really take time to honour Indigenous people.”
She adds that providing a safe environment for Indigenous people to gather is also important on Canada Day.
If you have Indigenous community around you, listen to them and do what they say in regards to Canada Day. If they ask you to pause, you pause. You may not understand why they’re asking you to do those things, but being able to respect that decision is really important moving forward.Shaneeka Forrester, Indigenous Relations Coordinator for UPlift Black
I'm going to acknowledge Canada day by wearing orange and reading indigenous authors to my kid.
— Wear a mask (@canconflict) June 29, 2022
If your Indigenous allyship & commitment to decolonization, Indigenization, and reconciliation stops at not wanting to cancel or reformat your observation of canada day, then it is not true allyship.
If this makes you uncomfortable or angry, sit with it and ask yourself, “why?”
— Jaris Swidrovich (wapiska kiniw) (@JarisSwidrovich) June 29, 2022
I will not be celebrating Canada Day and will be wearing orange in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples. So should you.
— Shelby (@Lefty_Mind) June 29, 2022
Our actions on Canada Day should not be limited to typical celebrations. Consider swapping your red and white for orange and take the time to learn about the origins of this day and why people are reconsidering the way they celebrate.#Indigenous #Indigenousrights #canadaday pic.twitter.com/1xjJWwl9Zi
— unlearn. (@unlearn_com) June 29, 2022
The only “ freedom convoy “ I want to see this Canada day is in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Canada .
— Sav ミ☆ (@AgronsLilLamb) June 27, 2022
How can you guys be excited for Canada Day when this country has a history of murdering Indigenous children?
— Della (@kasurokka) June 29, 2022
In solidarity with our Indigenous students and Indigenous communities at large, MUNSU will not be celebrating Canada Day. Canada Day remains a celebration of the ongoing colonialism and racism that Indigenous people experience on a daily basis.
— MUNSU (@MUNSU35) June 30, 2022
goal was genocide.
Apprehending and displacing Indigenous children to be raised and taught by non-indigenous people is considered a genocide tactic and still happens. So don’t.
Reconciliation can’t happen while genocide is ongoing. Canada day is a celebration of that genocide.
— Mishiikenh Kwe / Autumn Smith (@mishiikenhkwe) June 28, 2022
A reminder because Canada Day is tomorrow -- Canada has a history of indigenous genocide. There are over 1,100 unmarked graves of indigenous children killed on residential school lands.
— 🍑your only Hope 🍑 (@h0pesheart) June 30, 2022
I decline Canada Day show offers because I don't think genocide is something to celebrate. Boggles my mind when I see fellow white artists jumping on the opportunity. Donate some of that income to indigenous land + water protectors, pass the mic or do both.
— Russell Louder (@russelllouder) June 30, 2022
If you celebrate Canada Day, I'm sorry (not sorry) to tell you this but you're celebrating the attrocities of the colonial past.
And Indigenous people still suffer to this day
— 🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈Emberlynn Hees💙❤🇨🇦🇨🇭 (@QueenEmberlynn) June 30, 2022