Why I am choosing not to celebrate Canada Day This Year

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: TIM BISAILLON
Me and my great grandpa, Earnest.

Trigger warning: This piece discusses the topic of residential schools. If you are a survivor or have been affected by residential schools, please reach out to the 24 hour support line at  1-866-925-4419.

All my life I have always been subjected to comments like, “if you are Indigenous then why are you white?”

Well, to give you an honest answer, it’s genetics. Growing up as a “white passing” Indigenous woman, I had always had my voice shot down when it came to conversations about Indigenous rights, because people didn’t think I cared or even had a clue what I was talking about.

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I might have grown up in a small town, and not on the reserve like my cousins, but I am lucky enough to have my father in my life, who always made sure we got to experience and learn about our culture. Growing up, there were times when I felt as if my voice was not being respected or heard because I didn’t look Indigenous enough. I later learned that my skin tone does not invalidate who I am as a person or my culture.

As the great grandchild of residential school survivors, I made the decision to not partake in any Canada Day activities. As of right now, I feel like the voices of my fellow brothers and sisters have not been heard. For years we have been fighting for change and for our voices to be heard, and living in a country where some Indigenous communities do not have access to clean water or even proper living conditions.

But some of these issues stem from bigger issues. When it comes to racism in Canada and the Indigenous community, racism stems from residential schools. What the Catholic church did was an inhumane act. These children were neglected and abused. They were forced to cut their hair and unlearn their language.

Just hearing stories about what my great grandfather and great grandmother went through makes my heart hurt. My family comes from Thessalon First Nation and we identify as Ojibwe. My great grandpa was sent to St. Peter’s Claver and my great grandma was sent to  St. Annes, both located in Spanish, Ontario.

Annie and Earnest BisaillonMy great grandparents, Annie and Earnest Bisaillon. Provided by: Savannah Bisaillon

When it comes to Canada Day this year, I will not personally be celebrating because those thousand of bodies that were found across the country were children. They were family and they never got to experience the life I get to live today. We as a community are not asking for much, just a day to mourn and grieve.

Choosing not to celebrate Canada is a personal decision I have made because, for me, it is not about cancel culture but about letting my community know that people are listening to us. Canceling Canada Day is about acknowledging that, as a nation, we need to do better.

With the recent discoveries of over 1000 children found buried at those former residential schools, it has opened many discussions about what has been going on for years and years. Racism in Canada does exist and in order to move on from this “dark chapter” of Canadian history, we need to acknowledge what is still happening in our society.

I am grateful to have a better understanding of my background and how I came to be. For me, just having an understanding of who I am and being able to have discussions with my dad about his knowledge while learning my culture through him makes me proud of being who I am.

About a week ago I was asked why I care so much for children who are dead. I simply responded with another question:

“What if these were non-Indigenous children found at a public school? Would you be mourning ?”

The answer is yes, of course. I choose to mourn because these were someone’s babies and these children are my ancestors. Just because it doesn’t affect you personally, doesn’t mean that it isn’t affecting someone else.

The chances are, any Indigenous person you meet is either the child, grandchild or great grandchild of a residential school survivor.

This Canada Day, I am choosing to stand in solidarity with the rest of my brothers and sisters.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.