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Paradis: It's fair to celebrate Canada, but it's also fair to face the scars of colonialism

'We aren’t responsible for what our ancestors did, but we are responsible for the society that we live in.'

The Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council is seen behind as a man walks past a large teepee erected by indigenous demonstrators to kick off a four-day Canada Day protest in front of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday.

Canadian Press

The Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council is seen behind as a man walks past a large teepee erected by indigenous demonstrators to kick off a four-day Canada Day protest in front of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday.

National Indigenous Peoples Day comes 10 days before Canada’s 150 birthday. The two events make for strange bedfellows when you think about it—indigenous people are honored right before a glitzy sesquicentennial celebration of colonialism.

Still, it’s perfectly fair to celebrate Canada — we’re a great country dedicated to multiculturalism and I’d rather live here than anywhere else in the world.

But the history of Canada includes a brutal colonization and displacement of a group of people. It’s not all poutine and maple syrup.

All too often Europeans who came to the New World were intent on oppressing the people already living there. In many cases the native language and cultures were suppressed.

Children were stolen from their homes.

As people living in the shadow of colonialism, we aren’t responsible for what our ancestors did, but we are responsible for the society that we live in.

Canada Day is a chance to pause and reflect on how that is going.

Surface level inspection shows powwow events alongside Canada 150 activities. It’s the type of narrative that Canadians enjoy. A country of peacemaking.

There’s more to it.

While the federal government plans to spend a half a billion dollars on Canada 150, Ontario's Neskantaga First Nation has been on a boil water advisory for 23 years.

Many reservations are struggling with colonial legacies that moved their communities to inhospitable land. The public is not educated about Indigenous struggle and media coverage of the crisis facing reserves has often been scarce or inconsistent.

Many communities are still suffering from what their country did to them. Many people feel complicated emotions about a celebration of a country that they love, by a government that harmed them.

How a country can simultaneously be wonderful and horrible is a difficult thing to reckon with.

Canada has had a long time to sing its praises and we’re only now starting to listen to voices of Indigenous people. The best thing that people can do to heal the divide is to listen.

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