Canada Day 2022 – Reflections on Changing Perspectives

by Jul 1, 20220 comments

Happy Canada Day!

Today is the 155 anniversary of the day that the British North America Act (today known as the Constitution Act, 1867) created Canada.

I have always been proud to be a Canadian and was always glad to wear my red and white and celebrate on the day. As kids we would make flags and banners and hats and poems and all manner of things to show our Canadian pride. In recent years, attitudes to Canada Day have been changing across the country, prompting Canada Day reflection on how, why and what we celebrate.

Some Personal Canada Day Memories

I have many special and unique Canada Day memories including:

  •  Campfires and fireworks with mom, dad, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins on shared family camping trips
  • Visits to Parliament Hill in Ottawa with friends and/or family to catch music and fireworks
  • A late-night paddle with friends on a quiet lake in Algonquin Park where our entertainment was countless stars and a grand finale provided by a spectacular display of the Aurora Borealis
  • An event for itinerant Canadians hosted by the Canadian embassy in Tokyo, a celebration that included karaoke, sushi, and saki alongside the more traditional Canada day fare of hamburgers, Canadian beer, and fireworks
  • A combined Canada Day / Fourth of July potluck with a diverse collection of English teachers from around the world in Prague, Czech Republic
  • A haunting evening concert of traditional music at ancient Roman ruins in Volubilis, Morocco (this was not specifically a Canada Day event but happened on July 1 in a gathering with a strong representation of Canadians wearing red and white and waving flags

Those were all big and special events and wonderful memories but some of my fondest, Canada Day memories were smaller and included family gatherings with picnics or BBQs, followed by standing ending the day wrapped in blankets or sleeping bags to watch fireworks, often over Halifax harbour.

Family Loss

Whenever I was home for the holiday, I spent at least part of the day with Mom and Dad. Dad especially loved Canada Day – which made it especially poignant when he died on July 1, 2007 – only days after observing that his hospital room would provide a prime viewing spot for the Canada Day fireworks. Since that summer, Canada Day has always been a day of mixed emotions. That was especially true in the five years that Mom lived after Dad was gone. She was never good on her own and July 1 became a really difficult day for him. As much as possible, I tried to help her continue the traditions she and Dad had with some of their lifelong friends. While it was wonderful to spend time reminiscing and celebrating with people who knew dad, it was also emotionally draining. But, of course, we had to find time to celebrate Canadian pride as well as Dad’s memory. I wrote about this loss in my Canada Day post in 2020 (Celebration and Memories) when I felt especially reflective as we celebrated under heavy COVID restrictions of social distancing and closures.

Across the Country

For many years, there have been calls to make Canada Day a more inclusive event and recognize that the Indigenous peoples of Canada have a much different experience and history around the claims of a new nation and a loss of rights and cultural traditions of the people who were here before European colonization.

In recent years, those voices have become stronger and more widespread, with people of all backgrounds taking up the call. Last year on Canada Day, Parliament Hill was awash in orange as 1000s of protestors marched, calling for action on Truth and Reconciliation after the heartbreaking identification of almost 1000 unmarked graves of children who died in residential schools . Residential school survivors expect there are many yet to be found. The identification of these sites has continued, trigging more open discussion, wider calls for action – and lingering feelings that Canada Day should not – and can not – continue as it has in the past.

Canada Day 2022 Reflections on Changing Perspectives

Moving Forward – Changing Together

This year, as we celebrate Canada’s 155 birthday, The Government of Canada website emphasizes the need for inclusion with this statement on its home page

The pathway we take on Canada Day 2022 shines a light on people in Canada, as well as on Canadian diversity, inclusion and youth. Wherever you are, take part in July 1 activities and celebrate what makes you proud!

Most people are glad and supportive of a change in focus.  But many feel it is too little and too late.  Others want to celebrate Canadian pride while acknowledging that we need to accept and condemn the dreadful history and ongoing discrimination to indigenous people.  Conflicting ideas and ideals have made it hard for lots of people to know what and how to celebrate.

Our Canada Day Plans

At our home, we have talked about how the disgrace of the treatment and made efforts to become more informed about that dark part of our history.  We are choosing to engage in conversation and be part of making our communities more inclusive.  As for Canada Day, we’ll be keeping it low-key this year.  We started the day with an early morning paddle on the lake listening to the sound of loons.  There are many that would argue, that it doesn’t get more Canadian than that.   It is one of our favourite summer activity and seems a fitting choice for today because it gives us time to connect both with our country’s natural beauty and with the culture and history of people who have lived here before us.   Tonight, we’ll sit out in our backyard and watch the stars, glad to be out of the city glare and away from the crash of fireworks.   We’ll think of all the family no longer with us, and, of course, we’ll raise a glass for Dad – or perhaps a dish of his favourite summer treat, butter pecan ice cream.

Share Your Stories

Will you be celebrating Canada Day in 2022?  What will you do and with whom will you share your day?

Whether you are a Canadian at home or away, a new resident, or a visitor who happens to be here for a vacation, I would love to know your plans and thoughts about the day.

Do you have a similar experience with changing perspectives about a significant day or event in your life?  This might be a good day to record your stories of that marker.

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Educator, Artist, Storyteller

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