Folks gather outside the BC Legislature with Canadian flags on a sunny day.

Photo Credit: Nina Grossman | Black Press

Celebrate Canada In All Its Complicated Glory

Our history is both shameful and amazing

Want to wave that flag? Go for it

There’s no doubt about it, we live in a weird place. Our small population is spread out over millions of square kilometres. Our favourite sport involves gliding over ice on fancy knives and occasionally smashing into people. Our favourite drink? Coffee that sometimes tastes like cigarettes. But we like it that way.

Oh, Canada.

When folks from abroad ask us to define ourselves, we often say “not American.” Then, we pat ourselves on the back for being better behaved than our neighbours to the south.

That’s partly because it’s true. And it’s partly because we’re hard to define.

We’re a nation of immigrants. We often pride ourselves on a heritage that isn’t from here. We name our Swedish grandparents. A great-grandmother from Japan. Maybe both our parents came from somewhere else. Maybe we weren’t born here at all. Our ancestry is written in our facial features or the colour of our skin. In the clothes we wear and the food we eat.

But we all call ourselves Canadian. We feel connected to this place with all its quirks.

If we didn’t come here by way of immigration, it’s because we’re Indigenous to this land. And that makes Canada a complicated place indeed.

Indigenous folks have had languages squashed. Traditions criminalized. Children stolen. In the process of making Canada into a country, we took land and lives from Indigenous people.

And yet, Indigenous folks from across Canada came to the table for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Of course, not every Indigenous person thinks that was a good thing. But that’s okay, because not all Indigenous people have to be the same.

Courageous Indigenous folks supported the Truth and Reconciliation process. And courageous Indigenous folks have other ideas for how to live on the land inside Canada. It’s messy, and it’s human, and it’s hopeful.

There are feelings of guilt around residential schools. And guilt around the way Indigenous people are still treated in Canada today. That’s a totally normal feeling. There’s a lot of shame in our history.

But that shouldn’t stop us from making Canada a better place for everyone.

After all, thousands of us come here every year to make Canada home. Some seek a better life. Others are escaping war or persecution.

And folks who might have lived in the closet 30 years ago are getting married. There are pride festivals and camps just for queer kids, even in small places on VanIsle.

And yes, we still have cowboys and fishers. Loggers and lawyers, farmers, business people and yes, throat singers and Zamboni drivers.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. We still have racism. Our healthcare system is falling apart. Disabled people and seniors need better support.

But we can tackle these problems when we work together.

That’s what Canada Day can be about.

Canada Day can be about celebrating the good and acknowledging the bad. We all love things that aren’t perfect. We all have things we’re working to fix.

It feels like a strange time to be flying a Canadian flag. Unfortunately, extremists and folks who think honking will solve our problems are trying to co-opt it.

The extremist embrace, combined with our real problems, means raising that maple leaf can be tough.

But we don’t have to have all the answers on July 1st. We just have to be ready to work together on the hard stuff.

The reward is a fun and festive Canada Day. And a better country for all of us.