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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.

There are a lot of great things to celebrate and a lot to be proud of, but as an Indigenous person my relationship with you is complicated at best.

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.

Paramount Pictures

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.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be the Debbie Downer here.

NBC

It’s just that your Canada 150 Celebrations are a little one-sided.

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.

Fox

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.

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.

Kent Monkman

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

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.
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.

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.
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.

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.
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.

6. We love that you’re an internationally sworn climate change leader, but we want a seat at the table too, since this affects us too.

Andrew Medichini / The Associated Press

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.

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

8. The stereotype of the friendly Canadian is true, unless it’s the comments section discussing Indigenous issues.

Yeah, I know #NotAllCanadians but prove me wrong, Canada!
wordpress.com

Yeah, I know #NotAllCanadians but prove me wrong, Canada!

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

United Artists

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.

10. Canada, we love that you are international supporter of human rights. It’s just too bad you're not a supporter of treaty rights.

Jeff Mcintosh / THE CANADIAN PRESS

11. You have a rich and eventful history, it would be nice to be included in the history books, since, you know, we’ve always lived here.

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.

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

13. We loved that you endorsed the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (eventually), but now it’s time to actually do something about it.

Eric Feferberg / AFP / Getty Images

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

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.
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.

Happy birthday, I’m glad we had this talk.

Mulidzas-Curtis Wilson