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Emerging from the pandemic, we’re back where we started: in a deeply flawed country
The pavement still hasn’t cooled from the record-breaking heat of this past weekend. You can practically smell the smoke in the air already.
This won’t be smoke from the creeping, slow fires that the Lək̓ʷəŋən People used for millennia to manage Victoria’s landscape, carefully cultivating it into the “perfect Eden” settlers claimed to have “found” after the first of them arrived less than 250 years ago; it will be the black smoke that billows from the raging, ruinous, hungry fires of a parched province.
The people who tended those slow fires were chased from their lands then forcibly assimilated in Canada’s residential schools, places whose genocidal purpose we are again reminded of following the discovery of more than 1,000 (and counting) unmarked graves. Canada did that: Canada set about deliberately stripping First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people of their history, traditions, languages, cultures, and, in many cases, their lives through violence and through neglect. Those of us who weren’t directly involved looked away, and the media ignored it while perpetuating harmful stereotypes.
That reality has been available to us since even before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry, two national processes that laid bare our failures as a country. In the intervening years, Canada has made few steps to repair the damage and now the unmarked graves have dragged the recent past and ongoing harm into the spotlight again.
Today the child welfare system continues the legacy of the Sixties Scoop, with more Indigenous children in foster care than there were in residential schools at the peak of that system: more than half the children in foster care are Indigenous despite making up just 7.7% of children in Canada, while Indigenous children receive worse government support and service than non-Indigenous children.
All of this is taking place as Canadians yearn for a chance to come together and celebrate something. We just made it through a year and a half of uncertainty and fear, economic chaos, tough personal sacrifices, and lost opportunities—and now, thanks to the efforts of health-care workers, scientists, our neighbours, and people we’ll never meet, we’re lucky in Canada to be through the worst of it. We can hug our friends and families. We can take our masks off if we want. As of tomorrow, Canada Day, we can even visit other parts of the country. That’s something to celebrate.
But for many it doesn’t feel like the moment for unbridled celebration that we may have expected we’d have coming out the other side of a world-altering disaster. What we’re realizing is we’re back where we started, which is in a deeply flawed country, one that needs all of our help to heal not just from this trial but from its entire post-colonial history.
That’s what we’re thinking about this Canada Day.
Jimmy Thomson, managing editor
Tori Marlan, reporter
Jolene Rudisuela, copy editor
Emily Vance, podcast co-producer
Brishti Basu, reporter
Emily Fagan, newsletter editor
Arrthy Thayaparan, intern
Emmalee Brunt, Community Manager
Jackie Lamport, podcast host and producer
Aaron Guillen, reporter
Cam Welch, newsletter editor
Capital Daily donated recently to the Journalists for Human Rights program to train the next generation of Indigenous journalists; you can add your support here. The Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society is accepting donations here. And locally, the Victoria Native Friendship Centre can be supported here.