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Why I choose not to celebrate Canada Day 

Fireworks block out the suffering of Canada's colonial past.

click to enlarge Killa Atencio is an indigenous activist, entrepreneur and writing living in K’jipuktuk, originally from Listuguj First Nation in Quebec. Visit her online at moonlightworks.ca
  • Killa Atencio is an indigenous activist, entrepreneur and writing living in K’jipuktuk, originally from Listuguj First Nation in Quebec. Visit her online at moonlightworks.ca

Barbecues, fireworks, lots of beer and red and white all over the city. That’s what I see on Canada Day. Even when I’m not looking, I can hear the “Oh, Canada” chants from a kilometre away. But what are you really celebrating? Reflect on that for a minute. Patriotism? Pride? Freedom? Or maybe you just like a good party. I, however, cannot find a reason to celebrate alongside you.

In my opinion Canada Day is a hypocritical joke and no reason for fireworks, given its dark and fragmented history. I choose to not celebrate because of its colonial history and the untold human suffering it revels in. As an indigenous woman, I see Canada through a cracked, bloody lens, not through the rose coloured maple leaf-shaped glasses this country provides. I know there are indigenous and non-indigenous allies that share this sentiment, so I know I’m not alone.

Every day, we are forced to live with the continued theft of our land and resources—the broken treaties, the staggering number of missing and murdered sisters, the genocide of our peoples and the refusal to recognize our place in this nation. But on Canada Day, it hurts me to see people celebrating this country so blindly and forgetting the atrocities and lifetime of oppression that they’re praising.

We know this country was founded on corruption, lies and the dispossession of my ancestors, but still today it is not easy growing up indigenous. Why would I celebrate a country that is OK with the fact that I am three times more likely to go missing than a non-indigenous woman? Or that I am five times more likely to die a violent death? We live in a country that believes that proper housing, water, food and schooling are a privilege for a few and not a RIGHT for ALL. In a country where one in three people aren’t aware of the attempts made to exterminate our identity through the Indian Residential School system, where the political design was to assimilate us (along with the ongoing trauma and legacy it has left).

If what I’ve written comes off as a false representation of Canada Day, then I ask you to take a look at your way of life, your access to opportunities and your privilege.

If you have benefitted from colonialism in one way or another, than those responsibilities are yours to own. (To new citizens:, I encourage you to immerse yourself in learning about the history of this country and its indigenous peoples)

Ideally, for me, Canada Day would encompass everything it pretends to be: freedom, sharing, unity, prosperity and a healthy nation-to-nation relationship. But the relationship between Canada and its indigenous peoples today remains broken with an urgent need to be repaired.

Still, if you must celebrate Canada Day, make it a day to commemorate the lives lost as a result of this colonial system. Make it a point to learn about our history and its continued effects. But don’t be proud of it. Reflect on what this day means to the indigenous people on the land you are living on that has given you so much. Lastly, don’t forget to ask yourself, “How am I contributing to the nation-to-nation relationship?” and how we can work together to remedy the colonial legacy of this country so that one day it can be a place worth celebrating for us all.

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Voice of the City is a platform for any and all Halifax individuals to share their diverse opinions and writings. The Coast does not guarantee the accuracy of, or endorse the views of those published. Our editors reserve the right to alter submissions for clarity, length and style. Want to appear in this section? Submissions can be sent to voice@thecoast.ca.

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