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.
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.
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.