Every Child Matters: A Canada Day Reflection

by Jul 1, 2021

Reflections on Canada Day 2021

Today is Canada Day.  Most years that means family gatherings, BBqs, outdoor adventures, fireworks and musical extravaganzas. This year is different. Many communities are cancelling Canada Day events or changing the nature of the activities. And it not just about the pandemic.   

Usually, I wear my red and white with pride in the confidence that we are a great country, with kind and giving people.  I remain proud of all that we are but in 2021 we are also being faced with  a dark part of our past and our unforgivable treatment of Indigenous people. We need to reflect on this injustice, acknowledge and own it so we can heal and do better.  We also need to recognize that these events occurred not only in the time of settlement, allowing us to to dismiss it and say we aren’t like that now.  In fact, systemic abuses remain into this century.

Did you know…?

Did you know:

  • Indigenous ceremonies and practices were prohibited until 1951
  • Prior to 1961, Status Indians could not vote without giving up their status
  • “Indian, Inuit, and Metis” had no constitutional rights before the Constitution Act of 1982
  • The last Residential School closed in 1996  (Gordon’s Indian Residential School in Punnichy, Saskatchewan)
  • Canada did not issue an apology for its role in the Residential School System until 2008 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a public apology to Aboriginal Peoples
  • In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued 94 calls to action that would help redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.  In June 2021 the National Post’s Christopher Nardi compiled a list of all the recommendations that have been completely enacted (13), those for which the government has taken some steps (60) and those where no real steps have been made (21).

Read more Much work remains on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action

Time for Change

In recent weeks, we have seen the uncovering of more than 1000 graves of children who died in the compulsory Residential Schools. Like so many of us, I have shed tears for those children forced from their homes, families and cultures and placed in unthinkable conditions.  Many of them did not make it home and most were buried in unmarked and/or mass graves.

For many Indigenous people, Canada Day has always been triggering and a reminder that their treatment by Canada has not been worth celebrating.  This year, that feeling is especially strong for many Indigenous and non-Indigenous, leading to calls to Cancel Canada Day.  I believe that we can use the day for a time of reflection, appreciating what we do do well but also, recognizing we need to fix this if we truly want to be the ‘True North Strong and Free’ for all citizens.  I will be adding some orange to my red and white. I will recognize the beauty of our natural resources and the need to keep and appreciate them.  I will remember our ability to welcome newcomers.  AND I will be mourning the lives of the children who never made it home from the Residential Schools — and I will be making more effort to learn more, and to make a stand and offer a voice for those who can’t.  They were just children.

Support Indigenous People on Canada Day

COVID-19 Indigenous is a research partnership is supported by 11 Indigenous partner orgs and aims to develop innovative & culturally appropriate countermeasures to COVID-19 & other pandemics to better serve Indigenous communities now and into the future.  

The partnership has posted this message about Canada Day 2021

Canada Day is going to look very different this year, and is an opportunity to open space for learning and conversations about Canada’s history and the treatment of Indigenous Peoples. In an effort to help others learn more about the true history of Canada, and hold space for Indigenous Peoples on July 1st, we have compiled a list of activities you can incorporate into Canada Day. Whether you’re planning to gather with friends and family or not, there is an activity for everyone on this list to take part in.



Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Mary Elizabeth O'Toole

Educator, Artist, Storyteller


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