I just hate Canada Day.
If I lived in the US, I'd also hate July 4th. Actually, I do hate July 4th, I just don't care as much about it.
I have a problem with a holiday that comes with the sentiment: "Canada is the best. I'm proud to be Canadian. And if you don't like our country, you can leave!" Nationalist pride does nothing for Canada, except give us a day to ignore our problems while we party (drinking Canadian beer while we listen to Canadian music, naturally). We may have a few privileges that citizens of other countries do not, but we, as Canadians, did nothing to earn them, besides being born in Canada, and we are not innocent of human rights abuses, here or abroad.
But I am a patriot. I love Canada, and Canadians, enough to want to see our country change. I am patriotic enough to refuse to take a break from valuing human rights, from condemning injustice, inequality and oppression, from seeing and hearing the Canadians who will never expereince opportunity or success in our country, or from demanding to live in a country that I CAN celebrate.
There is no excuse for Canadians to spend time and money propping up a Canadian identity of diversity, equality, democracy and freedom that doesn't exist, especially when so many Canadians are desperate for an investment of resources that will allow them access to the "Canadian way of life."
What should Canada Day mean to aboriginal citizens, when our Prime Minister refused to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, when they are still suffering the consequences of residential schools, when they are still living with an epidemic of family violence, addiction and poverty, when land treaties are ignored, when nuclear waste is dumped on their land, when they are filling Canadian prisons at alarming rates, and when some do not even have access to clean drinking water? What does it mean for the rest of Canada, that we choose to celebrate and have not fixed these problems?
What should Canada Day mean for people who do not have homes, when Canada Day celebrations are funded at municipal, provincial and federal levels, but no money exists for more shelters or public housing, when they do not have access to our "universal" health care because they do not have addresses and when they face barriers to voting? What does it mean for the rest of us, that we choose to have these people rounded up and imprisoned so we don't have to see them at our "public" celebrations?
What should Canada day mean to the people who fought for voting reform, whose votes didn't count because their ridng went another direction, who didn't bother to vote because it didn't matter, or who weren't allowed to vote? How can we rejoice in democracy when nearly half of our country can't be bothered participating in it? How can we celebrate responsible government when the Governor General decides who will be Prime Minister, even as the government collapses, and can shut down the parliamentary process while the elected Leader of the Opposition is replaced by someone who is willing to leave the boat un-rocked for awhile, if only because taking power in a recession would be bad politics? What does it mean for the rest of us that we don't even like the people we elect to represent us, and we feel comfortable blaming "the government" for problems, as if the government has nothing to do with us?
What should Canada Day mean to people living with daily violence that they can't afford to escape? To the working poor who will never earn enough to break the poverty cycle for their children? To Haitian Canadians who know that our military is being used to "reform" the Haitian economy for the "global" economy's benefit? To Canadians who are refugees here, either because our corporations have caused widespread poverty and violence in their home countries, or because wealthy countries still refuse to put an end to the poverty and violence in developing countries that makes them so easy to exploit? To the people whose educations were sufficiently inferior as to guarantee they will never qualify for meaningful employment? To the people who lost their jobs because the company they worked for moved to another town when they tried to unionize? To the people working in animal shelters who are daily witnesses to the cruelty, apathy and violence that Canadians commit? To people with mental illness or addictions who are sentenced to lives of poverty and shame? To the people whose poverty drove them to crime and now live in prisons, with few human rights? To the people whose children were sent to other families because they couldn't afford to feed them?
What does it mean for the rest of us when we are willing to celebrate a Canadian identity that allows such terrible injustice? We're not doing ourselves any favours by failing to acknowledge that Canada has not lived up to our expectations, that the human rights crimes committed in this country do not coincide with our values and that we have no reason to celebrate when the battle has just begun. We hurt ourselves- we damage the value of every one of our lives- every time we choose to be OK with injustice, oppression and suffering, even if its only for one day.
We are not diverse. We are not equal, in value or in opportunity. We are not democratic. We are not free.