Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians!
I wasn’t on social media much today, but I did come across a few posts where people wrote about how fortunate they feel to live in our country. Many of them are like me, first-generation Canadians; our generation’s parents moved here from countries around the world. Some of my siblings were born in England; my sister and I were born here. The theme that ran through many messages was gratitude at living in a country like Canada, where we are free from the effects of most of the world’s conflicts, have government-paid health-care, and have opportunities we might not have had in our ancestral homes.
One post in particular resonated with me: it included a quote attributed to the late Canadian storytelling treasure, Stuart McLean. When talking about toasting our country, he said such a declaration “should contain certain humility, acknowledgment of our stumbles and our quiet determination to try harder, to listen carefully, to be thoughtful of new ways, to be sure we are on the right side of history.”
I don’t feel like we’ve fulfilled Stuart’s wishes yet; we have a lot of work left. After the first Europeans settled here, they made treaties with the country’s first inhabitants, our Indigenous Peoples, and white governments have essentially dishonoured those treaties. Our society tried to strip Indigenous people of their homes, culture and traditions, and forcefully took children away from their birth parents and put them into residential schools. We have also been slow to act on the nation-wide issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. I’ve heard it said that these deep wounds will take seven generations to heal.
When I think about the harm done, I also think of those who have spoken up from inside and outside Indigenous communities to seek fairer treatment; I think of leaders like Buffy Sainte-Marie. In my post on her song, “Goodnight,” I spoke briefly on “Starwalker” and its call to action, “aim straight, stand tall.” To me, this song is an anthem to those whose lives have been deeply affected since the arrival of Europeans, calling to the memories of the past, with hope for the future.
Much work is underway to reconcile with our Indigenous communities, though it seems agonizingly slow, even after the work and final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For instance, it took nearly eight years for my city’s leaders and the federal government to build a 24-kilometre “freedom road” to bring transportation access to Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, landlocked for many years on a human-made island by the construction of an aqueduct to provide drinking water to Winnipeg. Let us hope — and call for loudly as people who have ultimately benefited from the claiming of this land — that future reconciliation efforts will come more swiftly so that all in our country may celebrate one day.
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s the video for a live performance of the song from Buffy Sainte-Marie’s official YouTube channel (there is also one of her singing the song on stage during Canada Day 2017 celebrations, but I prefer this version):