Primate Fred Hiltz reflects on Canada’s sesquicentennial in his “Statement from the Primate on National Aboriginal Day 2017”:
Like many other Canadians, I am mindful that within just a couple of weeks of observing National Aboriginal Day on June 21, we will be commemorating 150 years of Confederation on July 1. For many this will be a great celebration complete with flag raisings and fly passes, parades and concerts, races and regattas, feasts and fire works. For many, this will be a time of national thanksgiving, and rightly so, for among other things the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [PDF] with the benefits we enjoy as Canadians. It will be a time for reflection on our place in the family of nations committed to peace and freedom for all peoples in the world.
Yet for many #Canada150 will pass with much less of an air of celebration given the history of relationships between the First Peoples of this land and the Settler Peoples. For some, #Canada150 is now #Resistance150, as #Canada150 is a reminder that this country’s founding is inextricably linked to this relationship. This relationship is marked by an imperial arrogance that became enshrined in a Federal Government Policy of Assimilation of the First Peoples [PDF] into the culture, social structures and governance established by colonial powers.
Enforced by the establishing of the Indian Residential Schools, generations of Indigenous Peoples lost much of their language, culture, identity and spirituality. Through “the child taken and the parent left behind” there were so many years of lost love resulting in a devastating impact on people’s dignity and self-worth.
The legacy of those schools lives on. It lives on even after the Government of Canada finally issued an Apology in the House of Commons on June 11, 2008 in Ottawa. It lives on after a number of the churches which ran the schools on behalf of the government — including our own — made formal apologies. None of us will ever forget the words of Archbishop Michael Peers, “I am sorry that we tried to remake you in our image. …We failed you. We failed God. We failed ourselves” (August 6, 1993, Minaki, Ontario).