Why I Won’t Celebrate Canada 150 or Canada

When we celebrate someone’s birthday it’s a way of acknowledging a person’s life.  Another year.  This seems good.  A way to validate an individual, a way to affirm their existence and value in the world.  We celebrate when things go well for us.  If my child gets a good grade, or if I win the lottery, or get a promotion, then I celebrate that specific success.

But what does it meant to celebrate not an individual’s success or life, but an institutions?  If our company’s stock takes off, we might have a celebration, but what are we actually celebrating?  We aren’t celebrating the actual institution’s success.  We are celebrating the improvement of lives that the institution’s success is contributing to.  It’s not the institution that is inherently worthy of celebration, it’s the impact that the institution has had on individuals that is worthy of celebration.

This is why I find the whole Canada 150 celebration to be really convoluted.  Canada as it’s own entity is nothing without the individuals that are affected from what it is.  What are we actually celebrating here?  Am I celebrating that I live freely, privileged and safe?  What about those who Canada has not given those things too?  Do I celebrate just what Canada has done for me?  Why do I need to celebrate my privilege?  Is there anything about Canada that in and of itself, independent of the individuals who are being affected, that should be celebrated?  Outside of nature itself what really are we celebrating?

This doesn’t mean that I’m not grateful.  I am.  I am grateful for everyone and everything that has gone before me.  But it also has me hyper aware of the costs and destruction that has happened in order that I can live this life that I have.  Gratefulness helps me see the cycle of life and death.  I am grateful of my life, but I know very well that my life is tied and dependent on death.  I think of the souls and lives that were destroyed in residential schools, I think of the oil spills, I think of addictions, I think of the murdered and missing aboriginal women, I think of those who stopped thinking their life was worth living, I think of marginalized communities terrified to engage the world around them.  There is a long list of consequences to my privilege.

Living gratefully in the present demands that we stay continually and honestly aware of the past.  Naivety perpetuates more of the same destruction.

This is why I feel obligated to refuse to celebrate 150 Years of Canada.  Canada has given me a ton to be grateful for, but it was not without sacrifice of millions of people.  Since it’s an institution, I don’t think it’s necessary to celebrate it in and of itself.  In fact, I think the only obligation we should feel towards an institution is critical accountability.  We owe it nothing, and by thinking we owe it something, it becomes a god in our lives that we give power to.

I think what I’m saying is that we just shouldn’t celebrate institutions.  They are simply shared myths.  By putting half a billion dollars towards celebrating something that we should be changing and improving is a great way to show that we have made it alive and powerful in our lives.  It’s also a great way to shrug off the responsibility that we have to stand with those that our institutions have hurt.

Giving our loyalty to an organization or institution or a country is a way that humans relinquish autonomy and give something else control over their lives, and in a lot of ways projecting the responsibility of our lives onto something else.

Myths are powerful.  The things we believe have incredible influence over our lives.  To celebrate them is self-indulgent and masturbatory.  Canada should not be celebrated, it should be constantly challenged because Canada is nothing but our shared belief in that which we call Canada.  That shared belief is not special and in many ways it has crushed and destroyed many things and people.  Let’s not celebrate that we believe the same things.  Let’s change what we believe to better align with a more loving and peaceful world, celebrate one another and live with eyes wide open.

I think the Anishinabek Nation Statement on Canada 150 is a sobering reflection and cry to acknowledge our complicity in what Canada is and how it came to be and choose to not ignore the full picture of what our shared belief in Canada has done.

This year, Canada will celebrate 150 years since the formation of the Canadian state. There is a long history prior to and since this time with First Nations across Turtle Island. This history cannot and should not be forgotten. However, it should not impede finding a new path forward.

The Anishinabek Nation Government continues to extend its invitation to renew alliances and partnerships with the newcomers to our lands, represented by the Government of Canada.

The Anishinabek Nation expects that meaningful co-existence between the Government of Canada and the Anishinabek Nation must be based on mutual recognition, mutual respect, sharing, and mutual responsibility.

Without the contributions of First Nations during the War of 1812, there would be no celebration of 150 years.

Assimilation policies and a blatant disregard for the human rights and the inherent rights of the Anishinaabe Peoples have caused unmentionable suffering, humiliation, and the deaths of countless people.

Now is not the time for celebration, but a time for reflection, acknowledgement and a meaningful commitment to change these discriminatory policies and legislation.

The settler governments have committed cultural genocide against our people. While there has been great upheaval in our Nation, we have endured and we will prevail. We did not disappear, become extinct, become assimilated, and we are not “Aboriginal Canadians”. We are Anishinabek.

Anishinabek First Nations will continue lead and build alliances and relationships with their neighbours through constructive dialogue and actions that support reconciliation and healing.

For the next 150 years and beyond we must have a collective and determined focus to elevate healthy relationships needed in this country between First Nations and Canadian citizens – let’s build towards something to truly celebrate.

We are All Treaty People.

Click here to download the Canada 150 Poster pack.

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