Canada

Canadian Nationalism & Racism

Captain Canuck and -isms

Canada Day

Canada Day

As a child, I felt some patriotism – I was a big fan of Captain Canuck and I liked attending Canada Day fireworks in Portage la Prairie. I remember a time when a box of fireworks caught fire and created a spectacular flurry explosions in the air.  This also meant that Island Park bridge might catch fire. If memory serves (and sometimes it doesn’t), my father, a volunteer firefighter at the time, helped put that fire out before the bridge was damaged.

As with many Canadians, I tended to define Canada in opposition to the United States. My affinity to Captain Canuck was possibly a result of Captain America.

I was too young and unaware during the Reagan years to understand the damaging aspects of Reaganomics and Thatcherism. During the second Bush years (GW years), it was easy to feel superior as a Canadian. While our government was still neoliberal, Bush was more neoconservative and quite imperialistic (note: in my view, neoliberalism favours small government and fosters economic – & social – inequality while neoconservatism adds big prisons and big military combined with imperialistic intentions of spreading neoliberalism under the guise of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’).

As I aged and learned more about my country and about world politics, I became less and less patriotic.  And then the Harper years began in Canada and Obama soon rose to power in the United States.  By Canadian standards, Obama is still right-wing but Harper and his team worked (and still work) to make Canada ‘unrecognizable.’ I used to think he intentionally echoed the Bush’s politics but maybe – with his peculiar affinity for Canada’s monarchist roots – it’s the Thatcher years he really admires.

Nowadays, I usually celebrate Canada Day with family and neighbours and I cheer for Canada in the Olympics and in women’s World Cup football.  Even then I feel unease though… While patriotism and exceptionalism can create global inequality, international tensions and war, communities and sports are, in many ways, peaceful and unifying.

While living in St. Lucia, it was even easy to cheer for their national team at a recent cricket match.  I enjoyed the fact that the audience included many passionate – albeit peaceful – fans of both teams.

Canada’s Flag

Canada's Flag

Canada’s Flag

Aesthetically, Canada’s flag is pretty – red, white and maple. The flag turned fifty in February which, on some levels, protects itself from the stigma of the Confederate flag of southern USA states.

The Confederate flag has recently taken additional heat for the echoes of the racist roots of USA. While slavery also existed under the current US flag, the Confederate flag has become a symbol for racism and many are justifiably wanting the flag taken down from public view.

When thinking of the Canadian flag and Canada’s extremely racist colonialist roots, in many ways, Canada’s flag escapes that symbol of racism because of its young age. Slavery, the brutal residential school system, segregation (aka, apartheid), dishonoured treaties and more were all created under the Union Jack (Britain’s flag).

The Canadian flag was first used in 1965. The Portage la Prairie residential school was not closed until 1975 and the last of Canada’s residential schools operated until 1996.  Systemic racism continues to oppress indigenous peoples living within Canada’s borders and our governments continue to ignore the need for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women (info on MMIW at aptn.ca, CBC.ca, Amnesty.ca). It is for these reasons that, perhaps, Canada’s flag should not escape acting as a symbol of racism.

Resources

Residential School System

Against the Grain (click to view)

Against the Grain (click to view)

   

"Indian Horse" by Richard Wagamese

“Indian Horse” by Richard Wagamese

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on Twitter

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Father’s Day, Aboriginal Day & Solstice

June 21st, 2015 is: Father’s Day; National Aboriginal Day; and it’s also the first official day of summer for those of us in the northern hemisphere. I just checked online and it’s also United Nations International Day of Yoga.

Father’s Day

I am a father and I am not perfect, and neither was my father. Amongst that imperfection in my life, is the perfection of knowing that I love my kids and that my father loves me.  While I do not recall ever hearing my father say he loves me, my kids get annoyed because they think I tell them too often, in both relationships – there is love and (as far as I can tell) it is unconditional.

This year, I am half-way through a three-month absence. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity of completing my MSW with a practicum in St. Lucia and I am also feeling guilty for being away.  I know this time is difficult for my kids and for their mom and I look forward to when we are together again.  I look forward to being a dad who is more in-the-present with my wonderful young children.

I look forward to continuing a tradition of canoeing that started when my own father was young.  As a child, I canoed with my father in Delta Marsh, on lakes, and on a trip down the Assiniboine River. As an adult, I enjoy river tripping and whitewater canoeing. As a father – with my children – I enjoy safer paddles on the Glenmore Reservoir, lakes and slow rivers.

National Aboriginal Day

As written on a Government of Canada webpage, National Aboriginal Day “is a special day to celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada.” June solstice was chosen for this day because it holds significance to many indigenous cultures within and around Canada’s borders.

While celebration is important, I am also thinking of the 200+ years of oppressive colonialism that is too often ignored by way too many Canadians.  I am thinking of the horrible legacy of residential schools, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

There are also issues pertaining to Canada’s ‘Fathers of Confederation‘. While they played important unifying roles for Canada as part of the British Commonwealth and they may have been excellent fathers for their own children, many (maybe all) were sexist racists who established a country that was intended to favour white men (not women and not the people who lived and thrived before European occupation).

Note: I write this with acknowledgement that I am a white male and that I am not merely an innocent  bystander in areas of oppression.

First Day of Summer

I won’t go into this too much, but for us in the northern hemisphere, June 21 is the longest day of the year and it is the first official day of summer. And summer is my favourite Canadian season.

While solstice holds much more significance to cultures and peoples all over the world, right now summer is on my mind.

 International Day of Yoga

I could pretend that I am an enlightened yoga enthusiast but my only experience with yoga is non-spiritual therapeutic yoga for those with back injuries. That experience and the experience of seeing so many lovely people in yoga pants while studying at Phil & Sebastian coffee shop in Marda Loop (sorry folks, I don’t have photos).

Yoga is much more than trendy recreation and here are some resources:

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