Two students debate the meaning of Canada’s upcoming birthday, and what 150 years means to its people

A celebration of rich national history

Daniel Rebelo

With one of Canada’s most important milestones quickly approaching, it is important to look back at all of the shining moments in our country’s great history. 150 years is a number that, when compared to that of many European nations, would be considered quite young. However, Canada has accomplished much in a multitude of fields at home and on the global stage, and this July is the time to celebrate these great accomplishments.

In the time after World War I, Canada began to cement itself as a country that could and did make an actual impact on the world.Beginning with the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917, Canada began to gain notice from the super powers of the world—primarily Great Britain and Belgium. This military accomplishment started a long history of Canadian specialty in war, which continued into the Second World War where Canadians were used as shock troopers during operation Husky in Italy to combat Nazi SS troopers. This also led to the Allies’ reliance on the army to storm Juno Beach during the invasion of Normandy—one of the more heavily armoured areas. These two moments were some of the most defining achievements of Canadian military history and have attributed to Canada a great deal of respect from other nations.

While our military exploits gained us much fame and reverence, the diplomatic actions of Canadian politicians is what we are most revered for. This history begins with the famous Balfour Report which decreed that dominions such as Canada are autonomous from and equal to Britain. This meant that Canada was officially a fully sovereign nation and able to participate in all facets of the global stage without needing to ask for British permission. This allowed Canadian politics to fully blossom and allow for our acclaimed diplomacy to be fully utilized. The next significant event in Canadian political history was the reversal of the infamous 1928 Supreme Court ruling that stated women are not persons and therefore ineligible to sit on the Supreme Court. While this isn’t exactly a glowing achievement for Canada as a whole, it was a time in which women were fighting for equality in the government. With the later amendment of the British North America Act, this unfair rule was reversed and women were allowed to hold a senate position. This was followed by the subsequent election of the first female senator in 1930.

These important political events were followed up other significant moments, mostly bills that radically improved Canadians quality of life. These include the constitutional amendment that created pensions for all Canadians over 70, and perhaps most importantly the 1960 Bill of Rights that became the law of the land.

While most of these events have the backing off national pride, they were not done selfishly or while disregarding the impact on the rest of the world. Even other nations have recognized Canada’s efforts on the global stage, best displayed by Lester B. Pearson being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to deal with the Suez Canal Crisis: the birth of what we now recognize as peacekeeping.

Many people consider the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday to be unnecessary in a world with growing concerns of severe nationalism and isolationism. Add to this that Canada is imperfect, having made mistake such as residential schools and the interment of Japanese-Canadians. Many don’t see why we should celebrate what can be considered a checkered past. What these people fail to realize is that we are not only thinking of the highs, but also the lows and celebrating the fact that the country as a whole has moved past these very low points and striving for a better future. While we are not quite there yet, every day we can see advancement.

Refusing to celebrate 150 years of progress and hope is almost disrespectful to all the great Canadian men and women who have given their time and their lives to this country. So while celebrating the last 150 years of Canadian history, don’t forget to think about the next 150 years and ensuring we don’t replicate those blights, to make our country and the world the best it can be.

Glorifying over a century of colonialism 

Ali Chatur

1867-2017, 150 years of Canada. This year marks an important milestone in the history of this nation. Canadians from coast to coast to coast will come together to celebrate the Confederation of Canada and its history. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement to mark the new year offers a glimpse of what is to come of this year’s celebrations. He writes, “[a]s we mark Canada 150 over the next year, we will honour the generations of Canadians who have come together to create opportunities for one another. We will celebrate the courage and vision of those who came before us, and the hard work and ambition of Canadians – like you – who have made Canada the success story that it is today.” But what are Canadians really celebrating? Are they celebrating our success as a nation or 150 years of colonialism, direct discrimination against Indigenous children enacted by the federal government, and a blatant disregard for the deplorable conditions on reserves?

Canadians pride themselves when they speak of the great diversity in our country. The Facebook page “Meanwhile in Canada” has close to a million likes with several posts presenting the compassion of our country compared to our neighbours to the south. But Canadians should check themselves if they really think that Canada is truly diverse and accepting.

Let’s get one thing clear: Canadians have directly benefited from the colonization and the genocide of Indigenous people.

And in 2017, what is the situation for some Indigenous people? Just in Ontario, there are 48 Indigenous communities living under boil water advisories. Justin Trudeau’s “real change” government is in court fighting against the Human Rights Tribunal’s ruling stating that the federal government is discriminating against Indigenous children. And the mental health crisis for Indigenous youth is a social catastrophe.

Despite these situations, our governments are currently doing the least that they can to support Indigenous communities. In last year’s budget, the federal government invested no new money for mental health services for Indigenous communities. The provincial government in Ontario refuses to clean up the mercury on Grassy Narrows First Nations reserve, even though science has proven it can be done. We hear a lot about “truth and reconciliation,” and building a “nation to nation,” relationship with Indigenous communities. But if our governments refuse to invest in these communities, and instead celebrate the colonialism that has caused these structural and systemic issues, we must question whether or not we should be celebrating our 150th anniversary as a nation.

Several Indigenous people from across the country have decided to boycott Canada’s 150th. “The way I see it is, these celebrations are a celebration of colonialism and, as an Indigenous person, I’m choosing not to celebrate colonialism,” said Nadya Kwandibens in an interview with CBC News from her home on Animakee Wa Zhing First Nation in northwestern Ontario.

When I go to the Government of Canada’s website and find the section on Canada’s 150th, there is absolutely nothing on celebrating Indigenous people or about the history of colonialism in Canada. There is, however, a section on something called “The Dream Catchers,” which is apparently a way for the government to “engage youth from across the country to create a new musical inspired by their dreams for Canada’s future.” Dream catchers, an important symbol for Indigenous people, are apparently the one thing that the government can put on their website in relation to Indigenous people. Shameful, to say the least.

So we must reflect on why we are celebrating the Confederation of Canada. Is it because we are proud of our history as a nation? We shouldn’t be. Canada’s racist history has translated into a nation that continues to discriminate against Indigenous people. Instead of celebrating Canada’s 150th, we should be involved in acts of decolonizing, and reminding our governments that they must take action and invest in Indigenous communities across the country.

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