A settler’s guide to cancelling Canada Day: July 1st and beyond
Below are details of boarding schools that may raise for families and survivors. Canada’s Indian Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line is available 24/7 at 1-866-925-4419.
What the State of Canada has done to the indigenous communities on Turtle Island is nothing short of genocide and would not be tolerated if the same crime were committed against white citizens. So much is true
From the 19th century until the last boarding school closed in 1996, more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were – often forcibly – taken to “school” far from their home communities or forced to attend the day. School “at these institutions, which are often run by Christian churches.
Calling them “schools” is a misnomer. It was less education than assimilation.
Which schools have cemeteries?
At Cowesss First Nation in Saskatchewan 751 unmarked graves. At the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, 215. There are also 104 potential graves on the site of a former boarding school in Brandon, Manitoba. These will not be the last graves found.
What kind of “schools” are experimenting with their own students?
Under the watchful eye of the Canadian government in 1942, research was developed to test the effects of hunger on the human body with students from indigenous communities such as The Pas and Norway House in northern Manitoba. In 1947, further research into hunger effects began in approximately 1,000 starving Indigenous children in six residential schools in Port Alberni, BC, Kenora, Ontario, Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, and Lethbridge, Alberta.
Today, the forced sterilization of indigenous women continues, a Senate committee heard in 2019 when it first became aware of a case of forced sterilization in 2019.
Today Canada’s missing and murdered women are disproportionately indigenous. Today the exploitation of indigenous land and peoples for money by the resource extraction industry continues.
Today indigenous disease, death and struggle are the norm. Today the colonial genocide of Canada’s dark past continues.
There is just nothing to celebrate.
The recent news of the mass graves and the unmarked graves found in residential schools across Canada has really angered many people who, until now, were unaware of Canada’s treatment of indigenous peoples. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ? . . . . . . . . . . . ? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . But how do we turn excitement into action?
The easiest way – and what many are currently calling for – is to cancel Canada Day. (On social media, #CancelCanadaDay).
The easiest way is to boycott your local Canada Day celebrations. Perhaps your church has already canceled it – at least 50 churches across Canada already have – but even if they are still attending fireworks, like the city of Toronto, don’t show up and tell people the reason With.
“The cancellation of Canada Day is an absolute recognition of the ongoing colonization and genocide of indigenous peoples on Turtle Island,” said Sylvia McAdam, co-founder of Idle No More, in a press release.
“The genocide of so-called residential“ schools ”has never ended. It continues today and we will use our voices in these countries for MMIWG2S, child welfare, birth warnings, forced sterilization, police / RCMP brutality and all the injustices we face . ”
What to do on July 1st
Use your online voice: Post on social media that you are boycotting Canada Day celebrations.
Contact your local media to let them know that you are boycotting the Canada Day celebrations. Don’t just not show up – people have to reveal the reason for the boycott, or you might assume the low attendance is due to COVID-19 or the heatwave.
Join Facebook groups like Cancel Canada Day to find resources near you.
Talk about it: If you’ve been invited to a private BBQ, respectfully note that you are not going to be celebrating and take the opportunity to talk about it.
Racism in its overt form can be deadly, but in its covert form can do a lot more damage in the long run. It is not for nothing to call that member of your family or circle of friends who embodies the “racist uncle” stereotype. When racism is normalized in families, children grow up with the idea that racism cannot and should not be controlled by anyone.
Nobody says it’s easy to go up against the elders at home or against the founding of the state, but it’s even harder when you grow up without someone to model this courageous behavior. . . .
When speaking out against treatment for tribal families, be especially patient when speaking to newcomers to Canada who may know little to nothing about treatment for tribal peoples in Canada.
The organization No One is Illegal has carried out bridge construction work to identify and expose colonial acts and their effects on immigrants to Canada, refugees and indigenous peoples and First Nations.
Wear your colors: Instead of wearing red and white in Canada, consider wearing some orange instead.
Orange shows solidarity with indigenous communities across Canada. The orange shirt movement began with Phyllis Webstad of Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Indian Band) and is usually celebrated in October but has become the symbolic color to recognize how indigenous children were treated in residential schools and continue to be treated today in child care.
“When I came to the mission [school], they stripped me and took my clothes, including [my] orange t-shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The color orange always reminded me and that my feelings didn’t matter, that nobody cared and I felt like I wasn’t worth anything. All of us little children have cried and nobody cared about it. ”
Overthrow racist leaders: Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, Canadians have questioned their statuesque worship of the racist leaders of our past. There have been demonstrations against the large statue of our first Prime Minister and founding racist John A. Macdonald for years in Kingston, Ontario.
“I have reason to believe that the agents as a whole … are doing all they can by refusing food until the Indians are on the verge of starvation to cut spending,” Macdonald told the House of Commons in 1882.
Kingston, Ontario worshiped John A. Macdonald because it was, after all, his birthplace. After much deliberation, the statue was taken to the cemetery where he is buried.
Activists took a much bolder move in Montreal when they toppled a statue of John A. Macdonald in August 2020. Her head broke off.
A few weeks ago in Toronto another architect of racism against indigenous people was knocked down during a demonstration. Egerton Ryerson – after whom Ryerson University is currently named, although there are calls to change that – laid the foundation for the boarding school system.
Support indigenous causes: There is currently indigenous struggles going on across Canada that you can support to support the solidarity.
Grassy Narrows is the longest-running lumberjack blockade in Canadian history. The people of Grassy Narrows suffered from mercury poisoning for many years as a chemical and pulp mill poisoned the fish with high levels of mercury. The effects of this poisoning are ongoing. Grassy Narrows just posted a public request for help with a poster campaign.
1492 Landback Lane was a month-long protest in 2020 in which Haudenosaunee land defenders and their allies occupied a housing estate on unclaimed Six Nations territory. The blockades ended in early 2021, but the occupation shed some light on the historic land theft in Canada. Indigenous land defenders – including the Haudenosaunee – continue to claim non-ceded land despite developments. The statue head of Egerton Ryerson, first tossed into Lake Ontario after his fall, is now on a stake at the site of Landback Lane from 1492.
The lack of clean water in reservations across Canada remains a human rights issue. Contact your local politicians, write letters, call and put pressure on this decade-long problem.
Attend Cancel Canada Day events
Over 15 Cancel Canada Day protests are planned for July 1, including in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Montreal, Regina and Saskatoon. Details on Coast-to-Coast Canada Day Cancellation Promotions can be found here.
When that shock wave subsides over the graves of boarding schools, we as a country cannot forget.
#CancelCanadaDay is not so much about the cancellation of July 1, 2021. It is about attracting attention that not only reaches the media and politicians, but also Canadians every day. There is a level of denial among Canadians that is only just beginning to crack.
It is important for settlers in Canada to be responsible for more than one day a year.
Learning to stop celebrating racism and colonialism is a good first step – but we need to be part of an ongoing process of learning how to talk to one another about racism and colonialism, and how to match Canada’s national identity with the horrors of its past aligns and exists.
krystalline kraus is an intrepid explorer and reporter from Toronto, Canada. As an experienced activist and journalist for rabble.ca since 2001, she doesn’t need aviator goggles, gas mask or red cape to fearlessly advance into the democratic struggle.
Image: David Allan Barker / Flickr.