While Canada 150 has been a major cause of celebration, with free admission to national parks in 2017, Ontario’s giant inflatable duck , and the official Canada Day 150 party planned for Parliament Hill, it has also been a point of contention for many Canadians.
While July 1, 2017 marks 150 years since Confederation, it does not, in fact, mark the birth of Canada. Canada, and its Indigenous people, were here long before 1867. What this birthday feels like, for some, is more of a celebration of colonization, if not cultural genocide.
Not everyone understands the lasting effects unfair treatment of Indigenous Peoples had on our country. Residential schools are one of the major causes of poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, and violence among Indigenous Canadians, according to Legacy of Hope Foundation. That is one of many reasons some Canadians are opting out of traditional Canada Day celebrations this year.
So instead of BBQs and fireworks, here are five ways Global Citizens can honour Canada and its rich history of indigenous culture.
1. Read a book about the history of our nation.
Don’t just pick up any old history book. Read a memoir from the perspective of an Indigenous Canadian. Bev Sellars’ memoir, “They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School” shares what it was like growing up in British Columbia and attending the St. Joseph’s Indian Residential School near Williams Lake in the 1960s.
2. Get involved with an Indigenous organization.
There are many Indigenous organizations in Canada that could use a few extra volunteers. Find out where you can donate your time and efforts, and learn more about the Indigenous communities in your area. Reconciliation Canada is looking for volunteers that want to help build a stronger relationship between Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians.
3. Attend a local pow wow.
Pow wows are celebrations that honour Indigenous music, song, food, dance, and storytelling. There are many pow wows taking place across Canada this summer, if not over Canada Day weekend. Not only will you experience something new if you’ve never been, but you’ll have fun and learn about the culture.
4. Visit Indigenous art exhibits
There are inspiring Indigenous artists in Canada like Kent Monkman, an artist who speaks to the issues faced by the Indigenous communities through his work. Exhibitions like Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, which was created as a response to Canada 150 celebrations, provide a visual and unique way to learn about the people and their history.
5. Rewatch The Tragically Hip’s final concert
The Hip was notorious for their Canada Day performances, but this year there will be no show. Watching their final concert may seem cliché, but there’s reason to it. During the concert, Gord Downie called on Prime Minister Trudeau to address Canada’s mistreatment of Indigenous people and he called on the audience to hold Trudeau to his commitments. Rewatching the show this Canada Day can serve as a reminder that we have the power to work with our government to ensure that all Canadians are treated equally.