Tag Archives: Canada Day

Canada at 150

A Country Ready, at Last, for Its Most Important Journey Yet

It is Canada Day and across the country, homes, people, cars, and garage doors are decked out in brilliant red and white like never before, on this, our 150th birthday. Celebrations and barbeques are ongoing. Concerts in public parks and along waterfronts are filled to over-flowing. Last night, some of our southern neighbours wondered why fireworks were lighting up the northern sky when it was not yet the fourth of July. More will follow tonight and throughout the weekend.

There is much of which we can be proud. Canada is widely respected in the world and boasts a diversity in its land and its people that is reflected in few countries. Our medicare, our social democracy, and our relatively peaceful communities are the envy of many. Yet we have our challenges and much we have yet to do.

Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire enter teepee on Parliament Hill

Yesterday, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, along with his wife Sophie Gregoire, walked casually across the lawn of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, removed his shoes, and stepped into a teepee erected by a group of Indigenous activists. Those who had set the teepee up sought to remind Canadians that on this birthday, there are some who cannot celebrate. I tweeted that Trudeau’s action made me incredibly proud. It couldn’t have happened without the courage and determination of those who arrived there in the first place, defying police, being arrested, and returning to make their point. It is a point we must all attend to.

Almost immediately after I posted my tweet, a follower responded to remind me that Trudeau’s actions and the visuals did not make him proud but reminded him of the many tragedies and losses Indigenous peoples have sustained at the hands of those who colonized this land and called it Canada.

He was, of course, right. The land upon which the Parliament Buildings stand was never ceded to Canada but remains Indigenous land. By entering the teepee, I saw Trudeau acknowledging that in a way no former Canadian leader has dared to do. I saw it as a moment of great hope for our country, a moment in which we have the opportunity to choose to move forward in right relationships.

Trudeau in teepee; photo Candace Day Neveau

A friend recently said that, as an Indigenous person, he thinks of our Prime Minister as “Just another Trudeau.” The pain experienced by the First Nations of this land at the hand of the government led by Pierre Trudeau was grievous. We have a chance to create something different. We can only move forward with the grief and shame of the past 150 years and longer ever walking alongside us. So it is up to us to find our way toward one another, to lift one another up in dignity and find the greater beauty we were meant to be. It is our journey, each step accompanied with the pain, sorrow, and horror of the past, to take together. I believe those who have long been calling for that journey, the Indigenous activists and the informed and enraged Canadians who have supported them, are being heard. I believe that this is the moment when we can find the courage to look one another in the eye.

In Trudeau’s gesture yesterday, I glimpsed what our future might be in this great land. It is a future in which the wisdom of the Indigenous peoples makes its way into our hearts. It is a future in which the journey we should have taken together is left behind and the journey we can make together can be realized. It is a future in which the beauty we have yet to realize can grow out of the small and great moments of courage and acknowledgement. I know we are ready. Let’s do this.

Happy Birthday, Canada, our home on native land.

canada day letter to john baird

Canada Flag at World Pride 2014After reading a pair of articles sent to me by a West Hill member living in Taiwan, one on LGBTQ rights and the infiltration of Christian fundamentalist hysteria into that otherwise tolerant nation and the other on the inclusion of Taiwan on a list of countries deemed “unwelcome” at Canada Day festivities, I decided Canada Day was a great day to send letters to parliamentarians.  So this went off with copies to the leaders of the NDP and Liberal parties and their Foreign Affairs critics.
Dear Mr. Baird,
As I learned of the inclusion of Taiwan on a list of countries deemed unwelcome at Canada Day celebrations, I was puzzled and concerned. I recognize that it is the Canadian Press that has named the list one relating to “persona non grata” and that Taiwan’s listing may be related to the reality that Canada has not recognized it officially as a state but I urge you to remove it from the list in order to continue to strengthen the relationship Canada has been developing with the country. As you well know, perception is as important as intention in international affairs.
Over the past several months, Christian religious extremists have been working tirelessly within Taiwan to heighten the Buddhist and Taoist population’s rejection of the tolerance Taiwan has extended toward the LGBTQ community and so influence government policies regarding that community. LGBTQ individuals are fearing for their jobs and their safety in a country that has been generally affirming toward them over the past decades. Canada’s relationship with Taiwan at this time is very important as a positive influence in this challenging area of legislation and law. Please do all that you are able to ensure that Taiwan recognizes Canada as an ally and remove it from whatever lists may suggest otherwise.
Thank you for your attention to this matter on this special day in our nation’s history.
Yours truly,
Gretta Vosper
West Hill United Church
Toronto, ON