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COLUMN: It's OK not to celebrate Canada Day the same way this year

'I love Canada, I think. I think I love the idea of what I’ve always thought Canada was,' says reporter who can't wave the flag this year due to our ugly history

Since my teenage years I have been the guy to wave the flag, unashamed and boastful.

I always felt Canada needed more bravado, more pride in all we have done and continue to do.

When I was in high school, I wrote and read an announcement trying to boost signatures that were going to Quebec that showed we wanted the province to stay in Canada. 

The Quebec Referendum was a close one.

One of the things I talked about was how Canada isn’t like other countries who had some pretty dark moments in its past. I bragged about our many accomplishments as a nation and how we were a kind country with none of the dirty, dark moments others had.

I’m very thankful that my fellow students at that time were just as unaware of the disgusting history we had (and still have). 

I read that announcement in 1995. You would think one of the staff who oversaw it could have mentioned there were residential schools actually still open then.

Canada Day is approaching and I would usually have the same flag I’ve had out every year since high school, waving wherever I go.

I would dust off my red and white Canada Day shirt and hit a festival or head downtown.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, there likely won’t be any events or festivals this year.

That's probably a good thing.

I love Canada, I think. I think I love the idea of what I’ve always thought Canada was. 

There is much to celebrate in Canada. We have many proud men and women who served this country’s military heroically.

Our first responders and frontline health-care workers have done an amazing job, but even more so during the pandemic.

Our many inventions are used around the world.

But I see 215 kidnapped, neglected, beaten, killed and discarded Indigenous children with likely (most definitely) a couple thousand more out there on the grounds of residential schools, and I no longer feel like waving the flag.

For the first time in decades, I have absolutely no desire to sing the national anthem, watch fireworks or post on social media my ever-loving dedication to the Maple Leaf.

There are some who will say this is an Indigenous issue and they don’t know how they can help by not celebrating.

How are you helping BY celebrating?

We were lied to. Outright lied to. 

I have a high school history book I never returned (sorry North Albion Collegiate Institute) and when I first heard about residential schools about five or six years ago when Gord Downie sang about them, I went through it.

There is nothing in that history book - nothing about residential schools.

This wasn’t discussed.

If you can’t get angry because you’re not Indigenous and can’t fathom what children and families went through, at least be mad that you were lied to. 

It infuriates me.

Look, I’m gonna barbecue that weekend, I do that often anyway. 

But there won’t be any little Canadian flags around the house or the dinner table.

I’m a heterosexual, white male, I don’t claim to have the answers here.

The last 15 months have been full of social, political and self awareness. The absolute very least we can do is show the Canadian government and the churches who were involved in this cultural genocide that we’ve now noticed, we’re not happy and we want something done.

Maybe if our different levels of government see no Canadian flags waving on Facebook, they’ll take notice.

Believe me, I know how this sounds. A few years back I would have scoffed at a column like this and said it was unpatriotic and disrespectful. 

Isn’t it more disrespectful to ignore the dead children? 

If you choose to celebrate Canada Day this year, I won’t judge. No one should judge you or make you feel less of a person for doing so.

I can't say I never will celebrate Canada Day again; I know I will because I believe/hope we're going to make sure something is done.

I’m just saying, as a guy whose whole identity growing up was that of the proud Canadian, it's OK to not celebrate. 

Just remember, if you choose to scoff at the idea of not celebrating Canada Day this year and choose to drink some Canadian beer and listen to the Tragically Hip, Gordie probably wouldn't be too thrilled about July 1 this year either.