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Dear Canada, It’s Not Me, It’s You

It's complicated.

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Dear Canada: Congratulations on reaching 150 years! It’s your birthday and you should celebrate it like everyone else.

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It’s great that you invited us to your party this year and I’m sure a lot of Indigenous People will attend. Just don’t expect everyone to make it.

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Some of us are a little concerned about how much you’re spending on this party. Maybe you could have done without the giant rubber ducky? Some of us could have really used that money for you know, food and water.

Sure, it’s great to look back and reflect on your past accomplishments, but if you only cherry pick your memories and only focus on the good, then it’s not really self-reflection.

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So here is an honest look at some of the things that helped to make you, Canada, great.

1. Universal healthcare is amazing but we still have problems with lack of access to services in Northern Indigenous communities and issues with systemic racism in the healthcare system.

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Many Indigenous communities are hundreds of kilometers away from hospitals and require days of travel for basic medical services. This may be covered by Canadian healthcare but requires them to travel far from support networks.

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2. The Mounties are an internationally renowned symbol of Canadian pride, peace, and justice. For Indigenous People…well, just have a look at this painting by First Nations artist Kent Monkman.

3. Speaking of art, it’s great that you love our art — we wish you loved our artists just as much.

Annie Pootoogook

Renowned Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook’s work was celebrated in galleries across Canada, but Annie spent her last few years on the streets of Ottawa before police found her body in the Rideau River last year. An Ottawa police officer was later demoted for making racist comments about her death.

4. While we’re on the subject, our art and identity share a lot of iconic animals with Canada like the beaver or the polar bear, and that’s cool! But sometimes, Canada, you take it a step too far and use actual Indigenous People as your symbols or images.

Twitter: @tagaq

It’s everywhere from sports teams to advertising. You already have lots of great symbols of your own to use. At the very least if you’re going to use our symbols and ideas please do some actual research and give it a bit of respect.

But I’ll give credit where credit is due, there’s signs of hope and folks are learning that it’s actions that are needed and not just apologies.

5. Canadian multiculturalism is great! In fact that’s one of my favourite things about you, Canada. But you conveniently leave out how you did everything in your power to prevent us from expressing our cultures for most of your history.

Danny Gawlowski / Associated Press

Like remember that time you killed all our dogs? Or banned our dancing and celebrations? I could really go on all day with this one.

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7. We are proud of Canada’s role fighting fascism in WWII, its peacekeeping missions abroad, and support to our international allies, but we are not proud of the racism and discrimination faced by Indigenous People serving in the armed forces.

Mychele Daniau / AFP / Getty Images

Indigenous officers report systemic and widespread racism, discrimination, cases of “abuse of authority.” However, this problem may be underrepresented due to fears of reprisal.

9. Congratulations Canada on having one of the highest postsecondary graduation rates in the world — unless you’re Indigenous.

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However the good news is that almost all Indigenous students who receive financial support to attend to university graduate and over half obtain multiple degrees.

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12. Canada, you’re a great place to raise children, now stop taking ours. It didn’t work well in the past and it’s not working now.

Handout / Reuters

Indigenous children are being removed by the foster care system at higher rates than even during the peak of the residential school system.

14. It’s great that you’re proud of being a bilingual nation, but there are lot more languages from here.

Twitter: @RedIndianGirl

You’d think in a place that is mostly made up of Indigenous names — like Toronto, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec, and Canada — people would at least recognize the language they come from. That being said, hats off to Montreal MP Marc Miller.

15. It’s true, Canadians say sorry all the time. Believe me, we’ve gotten a lot of apologies like for Residential Schools, forcibly relocating Inuit as human flag poles, and we’re still waiting on the apology for the ‘60s Scoop.

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While these are all needed (and long overdue), what we need now are actions to correct the wrongs of today not just apologies for the past.

16. Look, the point of this isn’t to just throw shade.

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It’s not to say that all of these amazing Canadian things aren’t great, because they are.

I really wouldn’t want to live in any other country. Just because it’s not perfect here doesn’t mean it’s not relatively good.

But just because it’s good doesn’t mean we can’t do better — for everyone.

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