COURTESY RUSTY NOLAN
On July 1, as people around the country gather at barbecues and terrasses, adorning themselves with red and white and waving the Canadian Flag, many have asked what are they really representing?
In light of recent events in which unmarked graves of young children are being uncovered all over the country, tens of thousands have decided this is not the year to support the big red maple leaf, especially Kahnawake and Kanesatake.
“I’ve always viewed July 1 for what it is, the celebration of the creation of Canada through the act of British Parliament in 1867,” said Indigenous policy analyst Russell Diabo. “That constitution was the beginning of the real colonization of First Nations in Canada.”
He explained that the notion of July 1 representing the birth of this country is simply untrue. “The Creator gave us our lands, and we were here first,” he continued.
Diabo explained that celebrating the first of July would not only be honouring genocide, but also the re-colonization of the country.
“Over the last six years, the Trudeau government has made massive changes through stealth and deceit,” he said. According to Diabo, within the many actions the Liberals have performed, lies a theme of dishonesty and the withholding of vital information.
“They introduced 10 principles for relations with Indigenous peoples, which are basically reinforcing the Constitution,” said the analyst. “And they dissolved the Department of Indian Affairs without talking to anybody, not even the Assembly of First Nations, their partner.”
Former publisher of The Eastern Door, and Kahnawa’kehró:non activist Kenneth Deer explained that genocide is part of Canadian history, and it needs to be acknowledged. “Canada became a country on the bones of Indigenous Peoples,” he said. “We have to understand why Indigenous people were dispossessed and disempowered.”
Although Deer thinks it’s important to reflect on the injustices that Indigenous Peoples have faced throughout Canada Day, one’s introspection should not end there.
“Acknowledgment of what happened cannot be limited to just one day. It has to be acknowledged long-term,” he said. “That’s what reconciliation is about. Coming to terms with the relationship that Canadians have with Indigenous people.”
In Kahnawake, a “Cancel Canada Day” rolling blockade is being held at noon tomorrow (Thursday, July 1). Starting at the People’s Fire, participants have the intention of blocking traffic for two hours and standing up for their human rights as well as those of their ancestors.
The event is being organized by three Kahnawa’kehró:non: Tammy Whitebean, Michael Diabo, and Chantal Loiselle.
“Canadians need to know the truth about Canadian history and the Indigenous people. Not what they were taught in school, all the years. The world needs to wake up,” said Loiselle.
Community member Rusty Nolan believes that it’s not really about cancelling Canada Day completely, but rather skipping it. “We’re in this country together, and we have to move forward and be positive,” he said. “But we all know that they lied and stole, and when Canada Day comes around, it’s a slap in the face.”
With the tireless work of Indigenous communities shining a light on the prejudice and intergenerational trauma they continue to experience, there has been a slow but noticeable shift in the way settlers understand Canada’s history.
“Canadians want action to address all these children in various residential schools,” said Nolan. “This has opened the Canadian public’s eyes and made them more aware that the survivors told the truth.”
Loiselle said that she often feels non-Indigenous people are hesitant when it comes to learning more about Indigenous history. “I would like non-Natives to start asking questions and not to be afraid,” she said. “We have no reason to lie.”
Nolan was pleasantly surprised when his employer at the Kanawaki Golf Club bought their staff orange shirts to wear on July 1. “He went out and spent the money to make us feel loved instead of rubbing it in our face,” he said. “Although, of course, there will be members with red and white on.”
He also knows a man who plays music at the Canada Day Festival in Chateauguay every year. Working at the ministry of music at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Parish Church, Nolan had expected him to continue his annual tradition.
“This year,” he explained. “He’s no longer going to play because he said he was playing for the wrong people.”
Diabo is hoping that this reaction will continue to put pressure on the federal government and hold them accountable. “I have always given the Liberals high marks for their communication strategies because they are able to convince the public, but Trudeau rushed to reconciliation and ignored the truth of how Canada is treating us and still manipulating us.”
Nolan has noticed this manipulation as well. “It’s confusing, they got a guy up there who says he’s sorry and says he feels for the people, but at the same time, he makes laws that go against that,” he expressed.
“The agenda has not stopped. We have to try and find peace and justice together, and we’re not sure if that’s going to come.”
Deer emphasized that although sometimes Trudeau acknowledged the pain and suffering of Indigenous peoples, the Liberal government as a whole is not acting tangibly. “It’s the institutionalized racism that keeps the whole Canadian racial superiority roots alive,” he explained.
Although the federal government may seem to throw around buzzwords and say the “right thing,” Diabo believes that an honest route is the only way to move forward.
“Their government is still based on manipulation and deception, and until we get to the truth, we can never have reconciliation.”
For Loiselle, the answer is simple: “The truth needs to come out. It was their fault, enough is enough.”