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OPINION: Dave Dale, Canada Day can stay, but ...

It’s astounding, really. We seem so full of ourselves in the archived documents and so congratulatory in the history books. We sure talked a good game and I can see how it tricked all involved into thinking there was integrity at play.
frosty maple leaf
Canada Day is better off co-opted by Indigenous currents than cancelled.

I’m not an advocate of cancelling Canada Day as punishment for our national sins against Indigenous peoples.

From my perspective, it’s not enough, and too easy of a symbolic bowing of heads at a time gathering in public has pandemic risks anyway. People in the government machinery don’t want to expend energy most days, at least not these days, and especially not on hollow, tainted celebrations that could spread disease. Things are so uncertain they’d cancel the sunrise if asked politely. It’s just not a meaningful gesture of condolence this year.

It would be a more substantial sign of contrition and remorse if we were all forced to gather for the obligatory cutting of that sugar-poison we call cake. Indigenous peoples would then have a captive audience. And with everyone’s hearts full of the knowledge that thousands of children were discarded like trash without a slice, the drums and songs might finally sink home.

Every swallow with the thought of Indigenous kids dying from sickness, starvation, abuse, and worse, would not be easy for the least caring of people.

Let me spell it out in case I’m being too subtle, it’s a fact we sinned as a nation from the very beginning and throughout our dealings with Indigenous peoples. Our leading society members – or it wouldn’t have happened – looked at them with contempt and beneath them, literally. And that attitude was ingrained right down to our poorest who voted them into power or watched idly by the sidelines as they benefited. Unmarked graves at residential schools, regardless of how the children died, properly and perfectly reflect how much “we” cared.

It’s astounding, really. We seem so full of ourselves in the archived documents and so congratulatory in the history books. We sure talked a good game and I can see how it tricked all involved into thinking there was integrity at play.

And we dragged our feet every inch of social improvement, doling out rights only when forced and always begrudgingly. That's what we want to celebrate?

I say ‘we’ a lot. I’m patriotic and nationalistic like that. It’s Canada’s shame and I’m Canadian, so it feels terrible knowing not just what transpired at the so-called schools but the actual genocidal concept.

It’s not like we were actually trying to do good by ‘killing the Indian from within’ so they could better benefit from our superior lives and culture. We wanted their land and resources without having to pay for it or keep the promises made or actually account for the atrocities as they were revealed by those with a conscience.

And yes, some of us were better than others. Not all were complicit, some tried to stand up for righteousness. It wasn’t enough and we failed.

But it’s better to know the ills and have a fighting chance to understand.

To repeat, I don’t support cancelling Canada Day. I’d prefer it if it was used as a means to reach the minds and hearts of Canadians. And not just as a guilt trip, although I can understand why most Indigenous peoples would like to rub the salt in with zeal.

We deserve a heaping measure of race blaming. We’re the ones who started it, after all.

Keep Canada Day but we could ditch the fireworks though, as a gesture of remorse but also a sign of respect. Fireworks at any point are disrespectful consumption of limited resources and always degrading to the environment. It’s always been excessive and more so at a time that’s wholly inappropriate to be celebrating.

I like blowing things up and watching the sparkles fall to the ground as much as anyone. It’s primitive fanfare that highlights power and dominion over somebody or something.

Celebration? Have we earned a celebration? Is it enough to celebrate our goals and aspirations, knowing that we got here by literally standing on the unmarked graves of others?

It would be good for what’s left of our collective souls if we could find a way to do the right thing with Indigenous peoples more often than we do. The sinning just never seems to stop, despite prayers and thoughts. And we apologize and move along in a mad stampede to consume more than we need or can pay back.

What I’m trying to say is that on top of screwing up the lives of hundreds of thousands of Indigenous peoples, we squandered the resources for all the children. And now and all along we cried poor as we nickel and dimed our responsibilities while blowing dollars to ensure the rich rise above all.

I blame party politics. I believe the majority of people would side with righteousness as individuals on important issues rather than the competitive nature of teams against teams.

The grip the powerful have on the purse strings would be broken if we could only find the courage to let people vote knowing it counted for more than one person or party.

We should keep Canada Day but it should be a national day of facing the music and actually becoming a community instead of pretending to be one.

Readers thoughts:

As for the feedback on last week’s column, I like the wit of R.W. in the comments of the week published Sunday. Vaccines against politicians and their variants sound like a good idea.

Another person emailed an interesting observation and idea after my June 21 missive about not wanting to return to ‘normal’ because it wasn’t working out well.

This person noted a private company is already building a new long-term care facility at the former site of the Civic and General hospitals for half the cost of what Cassellholme Home for the Aged is planning. Maybe it’s better to build new on a different site than do it in six stages over just as many years?

It’s such a waste to build things just so they can be torn down.

Maybe what would remain at the current Cassellholme could be used for some other social priority? Some things worth thinking about at a time there are so many priorities.

Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses related to his work can be sent to [email protected]. To contact the writer directly, email: [email protected] or check out his website