As someone who used to be absolutely smitten by Canada Day, each year, its coming feels a little bit different to me, slightly less special. I used to be THAT guy on Canada Day -- with the tall cat-in-the-hat Canada version hat, face tattoos, body paint, swimming shorts, T-shirts, necklaces bracelets, songs, thoughts and feelings. I used to bleed Canadian pride, especially on July 1.
When I was 18, after leaving high school, I learned about Indian residential schools. I also learned my own birth mother once attended these schools. I learned about the challenges her generation had staying connected to their culture and identity, tried parenting with no parenting skills and often unsuccessfully struggled with their addictions. Myself and all of my siblings were taken away from my mother and put into the care of the government. I learned this happened over and over again, in communities across the Prairies and the country. When I realized Canada had deliberately committed this act of spiritual attempted murder on my nation, my feelings (naturally) changed.
I began to look at my own accomplishments, not having children at a young age, not joining a gang and successfully completing high school as signs I had beat the system -- unlike many people who share my story. I was "successful," according to many western standards. Not only was I successful, there were even times where I was honoured and celebrated for this. I appreciate those who have taken the time to say thank you for my contributions, and this is not intended as a slight against them, but there are certain situations that make me wonder. I wondered, and then I realized a lot of that attention was a distraction. I was too busy being humble and thanking people for recognizing my accomplishments while right beside me and behind me and all around me were kids who were THIS CLOSE to beating the system, but for some reason or another fell through the cracks. It's not enough that MC, as one individual, is celebrated and successful when there are so many who are so close to their own accomplishment, and with a little more of a push from their community or helpers around them could achieve those goals.
And my beloved Canada didn't notice or couldn't care less about the Almost Successful Kids. I am grateful for aboriginal organizations like Ndinawe, which first taught me the positives of being an indigenous person... being of the land, sharing my history with me. I am grateful to the elders and spiritual leaders in and around the North End who continue to fight and share in the face of racism and poverty. My beloved Canada allows these things to continue, and until I feel reconciliation is sincere, I will not have the same joy on Canada Day. Instead, this anger will continue to fester until I, and the kids around me and our kids that are not born yet, have a fair opportunity to live a life where we all have our basic needs met, including opportunities to love ourselves and be connected to our own families and our mother the Earth.
So, Happy Colonization Day. Maybe I'll celebrate with you when some more progress has been made.
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