Our Canadian identity seems to be becoming more and more trivial from a narrative of politeness and hockey to Tim Hortons coffee and ketchup chips. From the perspective of white settlers, Canada’s strongest history is in our Eastern provinces from the Maritimes to Ontario. When I was in grade four my family took a very “Canadian” trip to Montreal in Quebec. My dad’s brother lives there and toured us around Montreal and Quebec City’s rich history during Quebec’s 600th anniversary. Coming from Saskatchewan where my town was yet to celebrate our 100 years as an established community, this shocked me. One night, after lots of poutine eating and exploring the Plains of Abraham, we walked around the city as a family singing as loudly as we wanted. There were period characters walking among us, and time stood still while we sang. It didn’t matter that my dad’s brother and his children had been estranged from us due to alcoholism, in that moment we were a family in one of Canada’s oldest colonized cities.
I struggle with our American neighbours labelling Canada as a perfect or magical country, devoid of problems. While I am proud to be Canadian, being Canadian means that I will fight for justice and not be willfully ignorant. Our First Nations, Métis and Inuit people would be the first to tell you that Canada is not a Disneyland where nothing unsavoury happens. Too many Reserves do not have clean running water, healthcare and adequate housing. During the Spring of 2017 I worked at a summer camper doing school group tours. I had seen hundred of children come through, many of whom were very well off. The day a group of children came from Beardy’s Reserve, only twenty minutes away from the camp, I was shocked to learn that their supervising teacher’s house had burned down that morning. This is not uncommon on Reserves and a woman that I worked with who had grown up there said they often only had school three times a week. I thought about Beardy’s a lot that day, thinking about those adults going to Saskatchewan’’s last residential school that closed in 1996. Is this what Americans think is so perfect?