Canada’s Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould – the first Indigenous person to hold the position – has been in South Africa. While there, Wilson-Raybould spoke about the 150th anniversary of Canada’s celebration, which we are celebrating this year. She spoke about the fact that it is difficult, as an Indigenous person in Canada to celebrate 150 years of colonialism.
As quoted in the Globe and Mail: “For many Indigenous peoples, celebrating our country’s 150th birthday has its challenges… It is hard to celebrate 150 years of colonialism … What we need to do is make a 180-degree turn, so that our laws and policies are pointing in the direction of the future of reconciliation and transformation – not the past of colonization.”
Lisa Raitt, a former government minister and current candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada took issue with the minister’s remarks.
It, apparently, does not make sense to Ms. Raitt that any Canadian would be unable to celebrate this country and its history (including, as she pointed out in a later tweet, the 100th anniversary of our contributions at Vimy).
Now, Ms. Raitt is a smart woman. She’s been in cabinet leading three different ministries. She’s been an MP for almost a decade. I’m going to give her credit and say she probably knows about the history of Canada – the one that started more than 150 years ago – and the way settlers have treated, and continue to treat those who were here before us.
(I say us because my family, like the settlers, came from Scotland, Ireland and England and I’m white and have all the privilege that comes with that).
Living in third world conditions on reserves, without clean water or proper facilities. Schools in disrepair. Indigenous women missing and murdered at high rates across the country. The effects of residential schools affecting generations of pain, addiction, abuse and torment. Lost cultures, lost languages.
That, Ms. Raitt, is the part of the 150 years that is not worth celebrating.
Oh, and since you mentioned Vimy Ridge, maybe I could also point out that Indigenous veterans who fought for this country came home to find they had lost their status, and with it their homes on reserve.
Part of my pride in this country is that we can take the time to reflect on our history. ALL of it. And maybe spend some time being ashamed without facing wrath from our political leaders.