I Have Mixed Feelings About Canada Day

There, I said it.

On one hand, I’m as excited to have a day off with friends and family as the next person. But on the other, the prospect of singing ‘O Canada’ at the top of my lungs and waving my maple leaf doesn’t sit right with me, knowing the abuses that have gone on (and continue to go on) to Indigenous peoples.

Let’s be blunt, Canada is not actually turning 156 years old this year. It’s just been 156 years since European settlers claimed the land from the First Nations. It’s merely the birthday of Canada As We Know It. As such, it feels somewhat ignorant to go around celebrating a history of wrongs that have yet to be made right more than a century later. ‘Sorry we took your land and decimated your culture’ doesn’t quite cut it. Sure, there were decent folk like Gord Downie working to make things better. But we have a long way to go.​

When I found myself homeschooling my eight-year-old son last year, I considered the opportunity to teach him a blessing in disguise. The Settlement of Canada was part of his social studies curriculum. And while I obviously didn’t want to bombard him, I was careful not to sugar-coat our national history, either. Right from the off, I wanted his knowledge to be based on truth and facts. I figured it’s the least I can do as a citizen and as a parent.

After all, the past isn’t totally the past when you see the deplorable conditions on many Reserves today. That’s without even mentioning treaty rights, the legacy of Residential Schools, missing/murdered Indigenous women… These issues are complicated, and I can’t possibly unravel them all here. Suffice to say, there is much to be done before we can comfortably move forward as a nation.

So how do I reconcile these feelings with celebrating Canada Day? I can’t. Not completely. Yet in spite of our country’s shameful track record with its native people, I am proud to be Canadian. And by and large, I think that pride is well placed. Imperfect as we are, we carry a reputation as a diverse and tolerant nation. Time and again, we top the ranks for quality of life. We remain one of the safest places in the world. We were one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage. We opened our doors and welcomed tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. Multiculturalism here is embraced rather than feared. All of that has to count for something.

So on July First, when I pull out my lawn chair and gaze up at the colourful explosions in the night sky, I will be raising a glass to the country I know and love. Our collective strengths may not negate our flaws. The past can never be erased, and we cannot let our kids forget.

But 156 years on, Canada As We Know It has a lot worth celebrating.



  1. Paula Schuck on June 27, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Well said Julie! I haven’t given it much thought truly and I am a proud Canadian but yes there are a lot of reasons to feel conflicted over Canada 150.

  2. Maria Steventon on June 27, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Part of what you are saying is true, but you are living too much in the past and not focusing enough on how much better Canada has become since the days of outright, blatant racism against First Nations’ peoples. It is an insult to all the progress we have made in our society when you somehow equate how natives are treated today with how they were treated in the past.

    I understand the need we all have to vent, and that women usually just want someone to listen, rather than have someone fix their problems (just ask any husband who dares to offer unsolicited advice on how to solve their wife’s problems, and then has his head bitten off by her ascerbic response), but really, it makes you sound very ignorant and unthinking when you say that there are injustices in the world, but then offering no possible remedy or solution yourself. Try going online and learning about possible solutions proposed by others and the details of how those solutions might work, and then spread those ideas. Telling people that they should feel guilty and then offering no way for them to alleviate that guilt is not likely to solicit a lot of support or empathy for your views.

  3. sandy on June 27, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Love your viewpoint Julie, but do have have a question to Maria.She says: “you are living too much in the past and not focusing enough on how much better Canada has become since the days of outright, blatant racism against First Nations’ peoples.”
    How do you know? just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist?
    Are you of First Nation descent?
    Do you encounter daily outright, blatant racism because of your race?

    I am, and I do, daily. not always directed at me but I’ve had my share of it. My last employer told,me that “Indians are unreliable and unemployable”.
    Why should I have to endure that ?
    This is daily in the world I live in. What about you?
    (Oh And when I replied to my boss’s comment, that I wish he would please stop with his offensive remarks, he then replied that I was a half breed and I should be used to it, the next day I was let go and what really irks me, I was let go by an immigrant who has only been here for 5 years.)
    its 2017 and it will never stop.

  4. Laura on June 27, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    I tend to disagree with what you are saying. Has their not been wrong doing in the past of all countries at one time or another? What can Canada do as a country to ever right the horrible wrongs from the past? Continuing to dwell on it doesn’t help no one. Coming up with a solution would do more good then saying they have been wronged over and over. It is like a person being abused as a child by a parent or loved one dwelling on what happened doesn’t help no one. Figuring out how to live with it is a better solution. Did the aboriginal people not sign the treaty? The deplorable conditions on reserves have a lot to do with how the bands spend their money allocated to them. Have you looked into how much money the bands are actually paid to do their jobs? We have reserves where I live that have casino’s that make tons of money, untaxed money and their reserves are still deplorable. So who’s in the wrong there?

  5. Andrea on June 28, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Julie you are right there is no way we should be celebrating a country that is so misguided in its own affairs and yet seems to feel it is a world authority on how other countries should run their affairs.
    That being said are there any countries out there that don’t have similar histories? Look closely enough and all countries have a history of abuse of some group or other, whether by race, religion or creed. To think otherwise is utterly idealistic, but isn’t that what is the essence of Canadianism?

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