There have been calls to wear orange this July 1st, and to hold back on Canada Day festivities. To instead focus on mainstream Canada’s growing awareness of its painful past and the self-denial so many of us have perpetuated. It is a reckoning, a rumbling, a peeling back of layers to address historic inequities at the core of our country. It is a time of mourning as more and more reports of burial sites emerge from Residential School sites across the country. It also needs to be a time of action.
These are quantifiable, visible reminders of the children who were forced away from their families and into distant schools rife with racism, disease, malnutrition, and abuse. Who died far from home, and whose families and communities were left with empty arms and unanswered questions.
Canadians, now is the time to act. To face this country’s ugly truth. Now is not the time to celebrate Canada’s national birthday with red and white decorations, with draping a flag over your shoulders, with a long-weekend barbecue at a cottage on stolen land.
This speech from abolitionist Frederick Douglass given in July 1852 landed in my inbox recently. In it, he spoke to an American July 4th crowd about how Independence Day was not – could not – be a source of celebration for him and other African-Americans who continued to experience and witness slavery and other forms of bondage.
It speaks to me in deep ways. It speaks to this situation in Canada in 2021 so clearly as well.
“”This Fourth of July is yours, not mine, You may rejoice, I must mourn.”
For more about Frederick Douglass and his speech, please visit this post from the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.