Celebrating Canada 150 is Complicated
/ Author: Susan Siemens
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Celebrating Canada 150 is Complicated

By Susan Siemens, Ontario Representative

A little over a week ago, our nation came together across communities, towns, and cities to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. While I’m not one for large crowds and big celebrations, I did take in the fireworks in my city and welled up with pride for our great nation as the magnificent display of red and white lit up the sky.  

However, this year’s celebrations felt a bit more complicated than usual. This opinion piece in the CBC, written by a relatively recent immigrant to Canada, accurately reflects some of the conflicted feelings I had about Canada 150.

As a white, able-bodied, straight female, born into a middle-class family, I am keenly aware of my privilege on occasions like Canada 150. I know that there are a lot of people who do not view Canada through the same lenses that I do—who on occasions like Canada 150 have much less to celebrate, or struggle to find things that they are proud of or thankful for.

This past January, I attended a vigil for the victims of the Quebec City mosque shootings and it was a heavy and painful reminder of the racism that still exists. This is part of my Canada.

I watched the protests that took place on Parliament Hill by Indigenous groups reminding us that Canada is far older than 150 years’ old, that in pockets of our great nation people still lack access to clean water, and that there are (by some estimates) more than 500 cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women, of which many are unresolved. This is part of my Canada.

Last year I was part of a team that welcomed a young woman from Iraq, and the Canadian government matched half of our donations to do so. She now has a safe home, is learning English, and recently secured meaningful employment. She is just one of more than 3,000 newcomers my city has welcomed in recent years. This is part of my Canada.

In late 2015, the Canadian government published a list of 94 calls to action arising out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, acknowledging past injustices, and creating a path forward for reconciliation. This is part of my Canada.

A week after Canada 150, I feel no less proud or thankful for the opportunities afforded to me by virtue of my citizenship, but I am choosing to allow this celebration to be a reminder of the ways in which we can collectively and individually do better. 

We take the good with the bad, celebrate the past while acknowledging mistakes, and use these moments to grow so that in another 150 years, we have even more to celebrate. 

We all have a duty to improve our own little corner of the world in the best way we know how. This can take the form of small acts of kindness in the workplace, having that difficult conversation with our co-worker we’ve been putting off, or reaching out to family, friends, neighbours or even strangers in need of compassion or a hand up.  

As Canadians, there are many ways in which we can celebrate our nation while contributing to its continued transformation. Here are a couple of practical ways to do so:

Sign up for the TRC challenge.

Learn about how your community has welcomed newcomers, or find ways to volunteer.

As we move into this 151st year, may we all learn from our past to be better for our future!

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