Is Canada Day a time to celebrate or reflect — or can it be both?

As the country’s birthday approaches, I make one confident declaration: We are a nation divided. (Geez, you’d think I was writing for my American audiences. But no, I’m talking about Canada.)

Last Canada Day I reflected on how I was ashamed of my country and of being a Canadian. It was weeks earlier I was emotionally intimidated and verbally beaten up at Toronto’s airport for refusing mandatory hotel quarantine.

At the time, I said I couldn’t believe how I was treated. I was disgusted by the strong-arm antics of various levels of government during the pandemic.

Since then, we’ve had the infamous trucker convoy that crippled many Canadian cities and border crossings. (Emerson readers don’t need a reminder of what played out.) On the heels of governments flexing their muscles and imposing unprecedented restrictions during COVID-19, they continued the power trip by freezing and accessing bank accounts and other measures not seen by any recent generation of Canadian. Never.

With Canada Day upon is, many people — including said politicians — say that it’s a time for togetherness, feel a sense of unity and to celebrate “this great country.” Forgive me for asking for a second year in a row but, is this really a great country?

Sure, compared to what’s happening in other parts of the world, we have it pretty good. But in the past three-ish years, do any of us feel as proud and patriotic of our country as we did, say, five or 10 years ago?

This email from a reader spoke volumes to me: “They are making The Forks Canada Day all about the (truth and) reconciliation. Everything is being turned into a division. It is not about recognizing the history and moving on because it is beaten into our heads at every occasion that I am a terrible person because I am white. If I don’t participate, I’m racist. If I do participate, I’m the bad white guy who feels regret because white guys are land thieves and child killers. It’s (a) no-win situation.”

In relaying that, I understand how the conclusion would be drawn that the reader is racist. It took me a few times reading it to see it differently.

Contrary to the mainstream mindset Canadians are now expected to have, I believe this reader is essentially saying, “Hey, in the quest for inclusion and recognition that all humans have worth, I’m made to feel lesser based on the actions of others.”

I agree that people shouldn’t be punished for something they had nothing to do with. I’m not sure the messaging is such that truth and reconciliation is “all white people are bad” — though if that’s how someone feels, they’re certainly entitled to that.

So, with this being our first Canada Day in several years that we’re “allowed” to have fun, is the seriousness of our country’s history and events over the past few years going to overshadow the festivities? Moreover, should it overshadow so we truly see Canada for what it is or what it has become?

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