Some Canada Day organizers have been spooked by last summer’s hysteria over 215 Indigenous children murdered and secretly buried at Kamloops. News of the alleged murders led to churches being set on fire, statues being toppled, and a panicked Prime Minister lowering Canadian flags across the country. In many places, Canada Day celebrations were called off.
This year organizers are still downplaying Canada Day or hiding behind another name. At the Forks in Winnipeg, the organizers have rebranded Canada Day as the bland “A New Day.”
The hysteria over the 215 graves was ill-founded because not a single body was unearthed. The graves turned out to be soil disturbances and nothing more.
The same results were found at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, The Charles Camsel Hospital in Alberta, Kuper Island, British Columbia, and Brantford, Ontario, after excavations were conducted. No bodies turned up.
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This is not to criticize communities which are legitimately searching for the lost burial sites of their recent ancestors. But the secretly buried bodies of residential school children are a different matter.
It turns out that the stories of priests murdering children and secretly burying them or throwing them into furnaces have been around for decades. These stories were, in fact, invented by a defrocked and unhinged ex-minister by the name of Kevin Annett. Over the last two decades, his claims have spread like wildfire in Indigenous communities. Now thousands of Canadians believe the stories are true. Certainly, the deluded people who burned churches and toppled statues of Queen Victoria must have believed the stories.
Of course, Canada has made mistakes, but genocide is not one of them. The only actual genocide on Canadian soil happened long before Confederation, when the Iroquois exterminated the Huron.
Canada’s history does not include priests secretly burying Indigenous children with the forced help of six-year-olds, but it includes much Canadians can be proud of. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and women have built this wonderful country in which we live. Chiefs with vision, such as Chief Peguis, Crowfoot, and John A. Macdonald, have blazed trails that allow us to live long and comfortable lives in a stable, peaceful, and generous country.
Canada Day recognizes both the wonderful things Canada has done and the mistakes the country has made. Our ancestors were good people – “the true North strong and free” – but they were subject to the same frailties of all people of their times. It must be admitted that widespread prejudice and discrimination – particularly against Indigenous people – was indeed part of our history.
But that has passed. Today, Canada recognizes all classes and colours of immigrants. While at one time, it could be said that Canada Day was a celebration by white, Anglo-Saxon Canadians to the exclusion of others, those days are long past. Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s multiculturalism ushered in a modern era of Canadians of all colours.
Let us not be ashamed of Canada Day. While nowhere near perfect, we are working toward that goal. There is no need to hide our feelings for our great country. There is no need to lower our flags or rebrand Canada Day.
So, on Canada Day, I plan to celebrate it proudly. I do not intend to hide behind a wimpy name like “New Day.” I am proud of my country, warts and all.
Canada is truly our home and native land.
Happy Canada Day.
Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
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