Canada’s history is a complex, difficult and challenging one to come to terms with.
Like all countries, there are aspects we want to change and others we wished never happened.
In the past five weeks, startling discoveries have been found at former residential school sites. The unmarked graves of 215 children were found at the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia and 751 bodies were discovered at Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan.
As many provinces have stepped up with funding to locate potential unmarked graves at former residential schools, the sad reality of more being found is only a matter of time.
Canada has never come to grips with its tumultuous history with its First Nations people.
While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was active between 2008 and 2015 and released 94 calls to action, only few have been followed through.
The recent findings of unmarked gravesites have thrust the discussion to the forefront throughout the country as Canadians try to better understand the significance of residential schools in our history.
Provincial and federal governments have said they’re working on a path forward and municipalities are no different.
Many communities have either cancelled or altered their Canada Day celebrations this year. Normally a day of celebration, for many this year will be one of reflection and somber thought of the country’s past and its relationship with Indigenous people.
In Banff and Canmore, the two town’s have modified their celebrations to include more education on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with particular focus on the 94 calls to action.
Both municipalities will have a focus on the Indigenous culture and history available to residents and visitors. Canmore has also installed plaques in all their public buildings, further acknowledging the traditional lands of the Stoney Nakoda.
Though there’s more to be done, locally it’s a step forward in better understanding and discussing the past.
While it would be easy to forget the uncomfortable parts, the more gruelling task is to remember and discuss the painful moments. It’s through these that people can learn from the past to better understand our present and future.
By studying history, a nation can build the knowledge to understand and help existing issues.
For some, Canada Day is a time to reflect on the positives our country has taken part in since Confederation in 1867 and the Statute of Westminster in 1931. Others will also take the time to discuss and understand what it means to be Canadian.
A country’s history should never be sugarcoated or whitewashed to hide the blemishes.
All countries have their dark moments and alternatively, their feats to recognize.
Notable events such as the liberation of western Europe from German occupation and the Normandy invasion in the Second World War are rightfully celebrated. At the same time, the Canadian government of the day interned thousands of Japanese Canadians and expropriated vast swathes of First Nations land for military use, while many of those same people served in the same battles liberating people.
First and Second World War internment camps, eugenics programs in the first half of the 20th century and xenophobic immigration policies are part of what defines Canada, much the same way as Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope or the passing of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.
The history of a nation is many things. It’s filled with moments to be proud of and decisions that are to be derided.
Nothing is achieved overnight. The lessons of the past can take generations to understand. How a country learns from each of those chapters in time is what is important.