Dominion Day was my favourite holiday as a child. My parents would load the family into the station wagon and we would drive off to watch the fireworks. That we were celebrating the founding of our nation didn’t factor into my jubilation. My joy was rooted in school being over for another year. That we were celebrating the founding of a nation that relied on a strategy of cultural genocide certainly didn’t cross my min
I no longer approach July 1 with the same ignorant bliss. Knowing that Canada Day commemorates an event that brought a great deal of pain to a great number of people, the effects of which we feel in our communities and see on our streets every day, has taken off some of the sheen. Canada 150 seems to want to erase thousands of years of human existence pre-colonization and ignore much of the inhumanity that came after.
As Canada 150 celebrations rolled out across the country at considerable public expense, I felt we were acting like someone who buys a $500 pair of shoes without having enough money for the rest of the month.
The federal government has spent close to half a billion dollars to mark this event. This same government is failing on its promise to bring clean water to First Nations reserves and continues to fight a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling from 2016 that ordered it to stop racially discriminating against children and youth on reserves in its delivery of child welfare services. Last month, the same month we celebrated National Aboriginal Week, the Tribunal issued its third non-compliance order, in which it found that the January suicides of two 12-year-old girls in the Wapekeka First Nation came six months after Health Canada was informed about a suicide pact among those youth.
In November 2015, there were 77 long-term drinking water advisories on reserves funded by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. The federal government committed to addressing the problem within five years. While the federal Indigenous Affairs minister insists it is working towards lifting those advisories (now 71), how far might half a billion dollars have gone toward meeting that goal?
Of that federal money, $700,000 was earmarked for Edmonton. With the mayor promising a good portion to be spent on “an unprecedented amount of fireworks,” I hope people enjoy them. And that we remember, according to Homeward Trust, while only 5.4 per cent of Edmonton’s general population self-identify as indigenous, this number was almost 50 per cent among those surveyed in last October’s homeless count.
It’s okay to celebrate all that is good about this nation. But knowing the federal government spent $2.5-million on a Parliament Hill New Year’s Eve party featuring Carly Rae Jepsen to kick off Canada 150 just days before those two young girls died, means that after I sing, “O Canada!”, I’ll imagine a million-and-a-half voices singing in unison, “Here’s our number. Call us, maybe?”
Mimi is a writer who first moved to the Alberta Avenue area over 20 years ago. She has participated in a number of revitalization initiatives and continues to promote the Ave as one of the best areas to live, work and play in Edmonton.
Featured Image: Celebrate Canada Day by taking all of this nation’s history into account. | Pixabay