A Canada Day like no other

I have and will always be a proud to call myself a Canadian, full stop. But my view on being Canadian is influenced by being a middle classed white man. There are Canadians whose experiences as a ‘Canadian’ are very different than mine.

Today I wish to speak to the increasing horror as more and more unmarked graves from residential schools are uncovered across Canada.

I’ll be honest with you, there’s a part of me that is worried about writing this letter. There are some who will justifiably feel my words are inadequate for the horrors we are uncovering across Canada and there are others who will dismiss this as ‘history’ with no will to reflect on what this means to be a Canadian today.

In the 1989 film, ‘A Time to Kill’ Matthew McConaughey plays a lawyer defending a black man after he kills a white man for brutally raping and abusing his daughter. There are many moments in this film that are tough to watch but there is one scene and one line that has resonance for me today as I contemplate about how to or even if I should celebrate Canada Day this July 1.

In his closing arguments Matthew describes in horrifying detail the attack on his client’s daughter, a warning, this is not easy to watch or hear. That scene closes with one line, “now imagine she was white”.

I want people to imagine, really imagine the rage, the disgust, even the pure hatred you would feel if the children in those unmarked graves were your great grandchildren – if they were white children.

I had once prided myself as being educated and sensitive to the history of residential schools in Canada. Even worse, I feel like I fully embraced the lie that we were ‘different’ and better than other nations in the past. Now I feel like I was fooled.

This Canada day I will struggle with the new reality of what it means to be Canadian but make no mistake, this is our history Canada! We have so much to be proud of and to celebrate but we must never forget our history. We may have inherited this history from our forefathers, but it is our responsibility for how we move ahead.

I wish to thank Chief Cadmus Delorme of the Cowessess First Nation for this quote, “We all inherited this, nobody today created residential schools, nobody today created the 60’s scoop, we all inherited it and we have to acknowledge that people are healing and people are hurting. Let’s do something about it.”


Dan Cunin