Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/6/2021 (408 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In April of this year, U.S. News & World Report announced its annual ranking of best countries, a ranking that measures global performance using a variety of metrics, including quality of life, heritage, cultural influence, racial equity and a given country’s commitments to climate goals and social justice, among other attributes.
And for the first time in this particular organization’s list, Canada ranked first out of 78 countries, surpassing other industrialized countries such as Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Australia, which rounded out the top five.
The report described Canada in highly flattering terms, stating that the country welcomed immigrants, and prided itself in encouraging citizens to honour their own cultures and celebrate its diversity. It noted that this country has a long list of accomplished writers and artists, and that Canada "is a high-tech industrial society with a high standard of living."
And while all of these things are true — and give us cause to celebrate the fact that we live in one of the best countries in the modern world — there is a need this Canada Day to recognize that not everyone can enjoy the best that Canada has to offer. And further, that a great many people in our country, Indigenous and non- Indigenous alike, are in no mood to celebrate given the recent discoveries of hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous school children, borne out of this country’s misguided attempt to eliminate Indigenous culture.
There is a need for reflection this Canada Day instead of the usual show of patriotism. We cannot ignore the mood of the nation, and the realities that too many of our citizens face every day.
Canada’s Indigenous peoples experience the highest levels of poverty in this country. The Canadian Poverty Institute estimates that about one in four Indigenous people and four in 10 of Canada’s Indigenous children live in poverty.
A scathing report by Canada’s Public Accounts committee earlier this year noted that Indigenous Services Canada has not provided the support needed to ensure that First Nations communities have ongoing access to safe drinking water — a basic human right that most Canadians take for granted.
"We found that some long-term advisories were lifted only as a result of interim measures that did not fully address the underlying deficiencies," noted Auditor General Karen Hogan in April. "For some of these water systems, long-term solutions were not expected to be completed until 2025."
Indigenous peoples are more likely than any other group in Canada to suffer from violence, homicide and incarceration.
And we cannot ignore the fact that it has taken the physical discovery of unmarked graves of Indigenous children who died while under the care of religious leaders and the Canadian government at Canada’s many residential and industrial schools before our country’s politicians have seen fit to make good on our government’s promise of reconciliation.
We are 13 years past the grand apologies that came from the government of Stephen Harper and opposition leaders in our House of Commons, and nearly six years past the issuance of the final report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and yet so much has been left undone and unsaid by those who have had the power to do more.
And there is clearly more to do. Thousands of gravesites still need to be excavated, and there is a need to give the families and friends of the dead some peace of mind. The news that 751 unmarked graves were identified on Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan was made worse by the realization that a priest with the Roman Catholic Church had removed the headstones via bulldozer that previously marked their locations back in the 1960s.
This is difficult news for any Canadian to process, and yet we must. That anyone could be so callous toward a person’s place of eternal rest is maddening. And that the bodies of so many children across the nation — whether they died of disease, suicide or of other more criminal means — were never returned to their families due to the cost that would be incurred or the realities of transporting dead bodies at the time, still feels heartless. This reality is at odds with how we Canadians view ourselves, and how we want the world to see us.
As Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme told CBC’s The National in a recent interview, nobody living today created Canada’s residential schools, drew up the Indian Act or masterminded the Sixties Scoop.
"But we all inherited this," Delorme said. "And if we want to say we’re proud Canadians, then we will accept the beautiful country we have today, and we will accept what we all inherited."
As a multicultural nation, Canada has many accomplishments to be proud of, and there is much good in the people who call themselves Canadians today. We should not dismiss those better aspects of our nature, nor forget them in times of national distress. Nor should we ignore those sentiments on what is, and should remain, an annual day of celebration of this country.
But going forward, let us ensure that all of our citizens have just cause to feel pride in those accomplishments, too.
» Matt Goerzen is the managing editor of The Brandon Sun