Our nation is celebrating its 150th birthday this year, and we have much to celebrate: the Reputation Institute reported Canada had the best reputation amongst 55 nations with the largest economies in the world. Canada boasts widely accessible healthcare and a global reputation of kindness and acceptance. Considering our global reputation, Canada is a nation we ought to be proud of.
My grandparents immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands on Canada’s centennial, 50 years ago, as it was home to the soldiers who liberated them during the Second World War. It represented safety and abundant opportunity.
Yet we are unable to celebrate our nation’s positive aspects without too considering the negative. Our 150th birthday is a reminder of our shortcomings: our horrific past in oppressing Canada’s native peoples. This conflict gave birth to movements such as “Resistance 150”, in which Canada’s Indigenous peoples ask that we acknowledge our past and present issues, and continue the recent strides towards reconciliation.
Reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples has been listed as a priority of the federal government; however, it appears this idea has become a platitude – a buzzword which has lost its meaning. Ontario Regional Chief, Isadore Day, said: “The type of wholesale change and following through on reconciliation, as the federal government has committed to, just isn’t happening.”
Canada’s history of oppressing Indigenous peoples by attempting to wash away their identity, and removing their power as a nation has created tensions and social issues that remain today. The issues that continue to plague native people include missing and murdered Indigenous women, a high rate of incarceration of Indigenous peoples and racism.
In Canada’s 150th birthday year how can we reconcile our troubling past with our present, and more importantly, our future?
We need to engage in the conversation. Listen to our Indigenous brothers and sisters, validate their experiences, and respond to their needs going forward. Ask what reconciliation really looks like. Perhaps most importantly recognize that if we simplify, or refuse to acknowledge our history this prevents us from being an even better Canada for all Canadians.
Canadians have the international reputation of being apologetic, even when it is not necessary. This quality shows humility, and is one to be admired. In this spirit, we must apologize for our shortcomings to ensure all Canadians can experience the pride, opportunity and abundance our country can offer.
During Canada’s 150th, we should celebrate the activists and the organizers; the citizens invested in making Canada a better place for all. I am proud to be Canadian, not only this year, but always. Let us continue our work to make Canada a place truly deserving of our pride.
Jennifer Hamilton is a local student and writer.