Is it racist to celebrate Canada’s 150?
This post is dedicated to people who would answer this question in the positive, and all those who would be sympathetic with such an answer. I myself think that is a rather silly question to ask in the first place, but it is an important one nonetheless, if only because a large enough population believes in its validity. Thus, I promise to take this question seriously.
This is a question that is asked in reference to the past and present struggles of Canada’s indigenous population. In the eyes of those who voice concern, Canada is a country built upon colonialism, cultural genocide, broken treaties and indigenous exploitation. There is enough evidence of the dismissive attitude the colonizers had towards the natives that it can’t be ignored. Even worse, this dismissive attitude manifested itself in actual genocide on more than one occasion. And that doesn’t account for the federal attempt to ‘kill the indian in the child’ with the now infamous residential school project.
But one of the first things I can’t help pointing out is the hypocrisy packed into such an interpretation. I am of course alluding to the reductionist attitude it takes to come to such a conclusion. Let’s just consider the type of people who are protesting Canada’s 150. We can say, rather definitely, that they are social justice types. If there is a conservative protesting Canada’s 150, it is safe to assume it is for a completely different reason. So let’s just consider the social justice types for a moment.
They seem to have an ideological loop hole that allows them to have nuanced and informed perspectives, and demand reciprocal nuance and knowledge in debates; on some topics. But on others, that demand for a complete view of the issue is washed away in a wave of blind passion. Let’s run through a few examples.
If you were to reduce the refugee crisis to the problem of islamic fundamentalism, they would call you a bigot. If you were to reduce the disproportionate african-american incarceration problem to violent black culture, they would call you a bigot. But if you reduce all of Canada’s history to the abuse of natives, they call it social justice. This is the hypocrisy I am referring to.
This is a larger problem within the social justice mindset. When it comes to understanding the plight of disadvantaged groups, they have endless time to analyze and interpret economics, social alienation, family dysfunction, health problems etc… But when it comes to understanding the perspective of the advantaged, they reliably reduce it to a) power and b) ethnic (usually white) supremacy. A big contributor here is that to social justice types, the ‘advantaged’ are alternatively called the ‘oppressors’. And fair enough. In the case of the colonial treatment of Canada’s natives, as I have already conceded, oppressive is an adjective which sufficiently paints the picture.
But isn’t it an injustice to reduce all of Canada’s history into that single struggle?
This is where I see compromise as a viable outcome. If you go hear the indigenous perspective on Canada’s 150, a universal complaint is that we neglect the indigenous history in favour of the European one. To them, to say Canada Day is fundamentally about the formal establishment of the country is to ignore the aforementioned oppression. But in response to this, they tell a narrative that is fundamentally about the native-colonial conflict. And this is where the problem emerges. Their solution is to replace the romanticized interpretation of Canada Day put forward by the colonizers, with the nightmarish interpretation of oppression put forward by the natives.
How about both sides just acknowledge the reality that both historical narratives are similarly true and and false. It is appropriate for Canadians who are proud of their colonial heritage to acknowledge the injustices felt by native populations. But it is also appropriate for Canada’s natives to acknowledge their own privilege. Canada is without a doubt one of the greatest countries in which an individual could live, and it is because of colonization that this is true. If someone wishes to dispute this statement, I would like them to point me to a country that isn’t of the west. Also, if they think how the British treated the natives is as bad as it gets, they boldly display their ignorance of native populations unfortunate enough to be colonized by the Spanish.
Thus, I just want to abolish two fundamentalist interpretations of Canada’s history. Sure, the romantic and utopian story that will be told, and the proud and benevolent feelings of those who celebrate the 150 might be neglecting a bit of history to say the least. But the genocidal and malevolent story told by the social justice types is just as negligent and just as ignorant of the realities that colonialism has bestowed upon the world.
To conclude, no, it is not racist to celebrate Canada’s 150. It is at minimum indecent to ignore or downplay the losses of native communities in the creation of Canada as we know it today. But it is just as indecent to suggest that all of Canada’s history is merely another example of the evil oppressor and the benign oppressed.