“Canada Day” in Ottawa 2017

This year, July 1 is important. Not because it’s Canada’s “150th anniversary,” though.

This year, important and compelling voices are drawing attention to Canada as a colonizing, settler nation. It’s a picture that isn’t as pretty as the stories we tell ourselves about our country. But it’s a more accurate one.

Indigenous peoples are reminding us that our country is founded on treaties that haven’t been upheld; on dispossession of land from the people living here; and on policies and strategies designed to eliminate them. The policies and strategies have changed over time, but they continue, as does the discrimination and racism that have become institutionalized.

Celebrating this history, and the society we’ve created—however respectful of rights, diversity and the environment we try to be—just doesn’t seem right.

So, here on this unceded Algonquin land we call Ottawa, here are some things I think we can do:

Listen. Learn about Unsettling 150, and why people have gathered on Parliament Hill and at the Human Rights monument this weekend. Listen, and resist the urge to reply with all the good things about Canada and Canadians—yes, there are many—but that’s not the point here. Follow people on social media who bring Indigenous perspectives.

If you’re not sure what Indigenous people are asking for, and what it means for you, start with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s article on land and reconciliation.

Read. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Report. Read Christie Belcourt’s Canada, I can cite for you, 150. Read an Indigenous writer. (My June/July reading includes Katherena Vermette’s The Break, Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian, Richard Wagamese’s Medicine Walk, and Leanne Simpson’s Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back.)

Support groups calling for change. Help protect the places in our city that are sacred to Algonquin and other Indigenous peoples. Spread the word. Make July 1, 2017 a turning point.

Written by Denise Deby.

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