This letter was submitted in response to the June 25 Voice of the City by Killa Atencio (“Why I can’t celebrate Canada Day”). With the author’s permission, it has been edited for length.
I am upset by your recent article in The Coast. It contains many negative assumptions and bears an accusatory nature. Your letter has rattled me so that I do not quite know where to begin responding.
I should first acknowledge the truth in your words. You are of course correct when you refer to Canada’s “dark and fragmented history.” Our nation, in the global scheme of things, has disturbing and shameful atrocities in its past, and perhaps is still not entirely cured of making horrible mistakes. You can say that about Canada.
But you must also look to the histories of every other country in the world. There may be a handful of small nations, peppered around the globe, who have entertained utopian ideals and practices within their histories, but I am unaware of any examples to discuss here with you. I am to understand that whether you have British, French, German, Spanish or Portuguese in your genealogy, you can study a great many evil deeds manifested by your forefathers (if that is how you wish to spend your time).
I would like to share with you why I do indeed celebrate Canada Day with all of my heart. I was born here and raised in a typical public school system. From kindergarten to college I enjoyed learning and growing alongside peers, descended from just about every country there is. By the time I was 16 years old I had a deep understanding of multiculturalism and our country’s ideals, and soon came to respect that the most fortunate of these bears the name: Freedom.
I suspect from your article that you have strong opinions within you. You challenged us, your fellow Canadians, in the very first paragraph of your article to reflect for a minute on what we are really celebrating on Canada Day. Personally, I celebrate the freedom we have to share our opinions with one another publicly, just like we are doing now.
Here in Canada, we are free to speak our minds. We are free to write our thoughts and even enjoy being published. We are free to make choices. We are free to join in politics and activism. We are free to set goals and see them through. We are free to fall in love, and we are allowed to be happy. We are free to pray how we believe is right. We are free to reach to ourselves.
So don’t tell me that on Canada Day—when you can smell the burgers flipping; when you can watch the children having their faces painted; when you can enjoy a drink with friends and listen to the roaring cacophony of fireworks—don’t tell me you cannot find a single reason to celebrate a day that says you are free to be you! And you can be you from St. John’s, Newfoundland all the way to Beaver Creek in the Yukon.
We cannot go back in time. This is natural law and unfortunately there is little we can do to alleviate the sordid past. The early European explorers (or better yet: conquerors) did what they did, and there is absolutely nothing any of us alive today can do about it. No matter how advanced we become, we cannot erase the way our ancestors once treated endless groups who have suffered immeasurably under heinous acts of oppression and the likes. Indeed, the human race—of which you are a part—has killed countless times for simply sharing a truth as you have with us in your article.
I love my country and all the good people (like yourself!) in it. So for goodness’ sake—on Canada Day, and on as many days as you can—do what you love while our gigantic free-borders hold! There is darkness in humanity without question, but in our country a great many of us prefer to celebrate the light.
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