As a child growing up in a small town in rural Canada, patriotism was a way of life. We sang “Oh, Canada” every morning at school from kindergarten until at least grade 7. Social studies class was spent learning about the greatness of the colonial period and the formation of Canada. Aside from some lessons on Indigenous peoples given by my fifth-grade social studies class that included the genocide of the Beothuk, any lessons on Indigenous peoples were confined to art, culture, and canoes; nothing about the effect of colonialism on Canada’s Indigenous peoples and certainly nothing about residential schools.
Our history teachings did not include genocides of our own making. We learned of genocides such as the Holocaust and the genocide of the Tutsi people in Rwanda in 1994. When we asked why we’re reading about such horrific events, our teachers told us that these events were important to learn about to ensure that they were never repeated. Furthermore, we were also taught that modern Germans should be commended for the way that they recognize and respect what their grandparents were willing to do when enticed by a monster.
Here we have found the crux of the issue facing Canada in 2021- our hypocrisy as Canadians. Our government and often, even us as citizens, heralds our humanitarian work worldwide while simultaneously ignoring and hiding the atrocities committed against people that we supposedly consider Canadians.
We cannot call out injustice or humans rights abuse abroad while these horrific acts are still committed here at home. This hypocrisy undermines our values and allows other nations to argue the very valid point that we have no right to call out someone else for their wrongdoings when we are ourselves have been doing it for centuries.
In solving this issue there are many barriers and obstacles, but perhaps the largest is getting the average Canadian to accept their responsibility in the continued subjugation of this country’s Indigenous populations.
Let’s be clear here- this is not an indictment of the average Canadian or even the Canadian identity as a whole. Instead, it is a recognition that part of that identity is tied to the subjugation of millions of people and to allow that to continue is to go against what are truly important Canadian ideals; multiculturalism, humanitarianism, and tolerance.
To foster a better future for all Canadians, we need to recognize the fact that not all of us are considered equal under our current Constitution and work to correct that. We must deal with our responsibility in this issue because in order for us to be Canadian, Canada must exist and Canada, as we know it, would not exist without the destruction of an entire people and their cultures.
These are the crucial first steps and taking them does not mean admitting that we are bad people or that we are racist, but instead, that much of the foundation of our identity as Canadians is tied to this legacy and accepting that is to personify the other more important aspects of the Canadian identity.