Canada’s Contentious 150 Anniversary

Amid Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations, the indigenous movement behind #Resistance150 challenges our perception of the country’s identity. Whose Canada are we really celebrating?

Instead of embracing the history of over 10,000 years during which indigenous peoples had been living on “Canadian” lands, the official #Canada150 effectively blurs the line between the past and what Justin Trudeau wish the past had been.

The anniversary marks the year when the British North America Act was approved by the British parliament, a milestone for uniting colonies of Canada. At the same time, though, it represents the beginning of the expansionist agenda, grounded on an oppressive relationship between the colonizer and the colonized.

Since then, the institutionalization of exclusion has found its embodiment in multiple policies and practices, some of which, like the Indian Act, are still in force. Its coercive nature, absorbed with eradicating “the problem” of First Nations by forced assimilation combined with practices of social exclusion, has been replicated on many levels of public policies throughout the last 150 years.

For instance, Ottawa destines half a billion dollars to the anniversary spending budget, but it hasn’t even complied with the last year’s ruling, according to which the underfunding of aboriginal child welfare and not providing with the safe access to water in nearly 90 First Nations communities constituted a racially motivated discrimination.

For this reason, celebrating Canada’s independence becomes inescapably problematic because as much as one might be proud of its nation, by participating in festivities we silently condone the perpetuation of the abuses. “We’re saying you can’t do this to us anymore, your celebration stinks, it’s built on genocide,” said Isaac Murdoch from Serpent River First Nation, Ontario.

Indeed, celebrations meant to unite Canadians paradoxically only exacerbate the impression that Canada hasn’t fully critically recognized or corrected the divisive legacy of colonialism.

Photo by Sebastián L.C.

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