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Angela Bowden: Do not wish me a happy Canada Day

Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – To those wishing to celebrate in a vacuum this beautiful Canada that they see, remember the experience today isn’t shared by everybody.

Not because we’re party poopers or Debbie Downers. Not because we find fault in everything and certainly not because we want to ruin your fun.

Hearing happy and Canada in the same sentence can be very triggering for Black and Indigenous people. It’s  like a rapist to the #Metoo movement. Canada is our rapist. 

Hearing happy associated with somebody’s perpetrator of their genocide and trauma does not go well together. And, at this stage in the game, with racial tensions and hate crimes at an escalating high in Canada and indeed the world,  hearing happy Canada Day can be significantly triggering for those being abused by Canada and all of its systems!

When I hear happy Canada day, I remember all of the crimes Canada has perpetrated in the past against Black and Indigenous people. Starting with their active role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the building of slave ships in Atlantic Canada, residential schools and the 60s scoop.

Screaming in my heart are the thousands of  Indigenous children who were killed and tortured through residential schools under Sir John A Macdonald’s rule in Canada, some of whom were recently recovered and others who are yet to be recovered. 

Aching in my soul are the hate-motivated anti-Muslim crimes perpetrated against an entire family, murdering Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Salman’s mother, Talat Afzaal, 74, injuring and leaving 9 year old Fayez without a mom, dad sibling or grandmother. in London, Ontario.

I reflect on the systemic, institutional and environmental racism that Canada is currently perpetrating and ignoring.

I think of the layers of scars Canada has inflicted for centuries, and the decades of wounds and trauma they refuse to acknowledge and heal.

I think about our children’s safety in a country they are expected to stand on guard for that doesn’t protect or stand on guard for them. 

I think about the multiple micro and macro aggressions we experience daily in businesses, by strangers walking down the street and from moving vehicles.

I think about the confederate flags flying in our province, on license plates and these fixtures or statues of conquer that are proudly displayed by “Canadians” via parks and statues. 

I think of the justified fear of Black and Indigenous parents and children who are simply trying to exist and attempt to participate in Canada.

I think of the systemic racism and  barriers that Canada refuses to address in education, healthcare, housing and justice, barriers that continue to reproduce trauma and injuries. I am angered that they acknowledge its existence but refuse to act. 

I am reflecting on the Black man racially profiled and ticketed by HRP while jaywalking on Gottingen street.

I think about the countless human rights complaints that report the abusive Canadian structures we live in.

I think about the multiple  treaty violations country wide and locally. Etched in my mind is last fall’s reign of terror by commercial fishermen in Nova Scotia and their thug gang against the indigenous fishermen and communities; they abused, assaulted , committed arson and threatened the lives and moderate livelihood of the Mi’kmaq people with impunity and without resolve. I remember the businesses that participated by refusing service to Indigenous people. I am angered at the missing and murdered indigenous women that are yet to be recovered or prioritized. 

See,  when I hear Canada happy is the furthest thing from my mind!

I reminisce on the NCA that was granted a permit in our province to spew hate in Halifax. I recall the Lions Club in Truro that granted them space and then only after strong public response were pressured to cancel. I remember them showing up in Truro anyway and being more protected by law enforcement than the people they set out to make feel inferior and unsafe. I think about Cape Breton which originally granted them the Legion before rescinding it. I remember the chaos they orchestrated throughout Ontario that was protected under the freedom of hate speech.

July 1 makes me reflect on the Canadians that Canada refuses to protect.

I reflect on Nhlanhla Dlamini and the vicious hate crime he was subjected to in Canada and the refusal to label it as such in Pictou County. I am sickened by the light sentence and consideration Judge Del Atwood gave to his abuser in the face of the heinous anti-Black terror attack perpetrated in the workplace.

I grieve the loss of aspects of my own  life due to systemic and anti-Black racism in the workplace and the trauma it has caused. I remember DeAngelo, my son who died as a result of anti- Black mother stereotypes and systemic racism in the Nova Scotia healthcare system.

I think about the it’s ok to be white campaign that was swept under the rug next to the it’s ok to commit white crimes. 

I think about the NSCC “How not to ECE” decorated racist door in Yarmouth that upheld the racist stereotypes of Black women being poor mothers..

I think about the 9 year old student in Dartmouth who was not protected as a child and locked outside the school and had the police called on him. I weep because our children are never seen as children. 

I am angered that these racist ideals and stereotypes continue to produce harm.

I think about Santina Rao, a Black mother who was beaten by police in Walmart on Mumford Road in Halifax in front of her small children. 

I think of Regis who died in police presence in Toronto after a wellness check gone fatally wrong and we still have no answers.

I think about the intergenerational abuse that doesn’t respect our children or elders. I am fuming when I remember our elder who was tased for a parking violation.

I think about my sons who had the police called on them by McDonalds employees on Larry Uteck because they were returning a wrong order after dark. This made employees uneasy because two Black men came back after dark and three cruisers showed up to address them. 

I think of all of the tenants renting while Black who are subjected to the surveillance of anti-Black renting while being subjected to ongoing vexatious and frivolous complaints. 

I think about the various families who were assaulted with racist hate epithets spray painted on their property or in their neighborhoods.

I think about the sports parents and players who are subjected to this hate while trying to play sports or watch a loved one’s game.

I think about the people attacked on public transit or walking down the street with hate speech and threats by these stellar “Canadians”.

I think about the 6 year old baby girl who was hogtied and shackled in Hamilton, Ontario. She was 48 pounds.

I think about the ongoing  police harassment at our justice and anti-racist rallies.

I think about the racist street checks that no one will apologize for or correct.

I think about the reparations, truth and reconciliation that is overdue to restore our communities and repair the generational and ongoing genocide and damage.

See, my mind fills up with pain and trauma when I hear “Happy Canada Day” because it is not a Happy Canada for Black and Indigenous people. 

So pardon me if I must speak the truth and ruin the comfort of your holiday but I will not be gaslit into ignoring the truth – Canada was never the happy multicultural mosaic they tout- Canada has problems, historic and contemporary that we need to address immediately!

So if today isn’t celebrated by everyone the way “you” think it should be please remember this fact- Canada Day can be one of the biggest triggers to its many victims. 

Validate their worth:

Every Child Matters! Black Lives Matter! Indigenous Lives Matter! LGBTQ+ Lives Matter! Muslim Lives Matter! Asian Lives Matter! Brown Lives Matter; POC Matter! I call them out because Canada has declared a racial inequity and terror war against them by allowing them their abuse to continue despite the knowledge and acknowledgment that it exists without action. No more can we accept apologies, we demand change! Apologies without action is just more racism. #Togetherweresteonger

An earlier version of this article was published on Canada Day 2020.

Angela Bowden is a frequent contributor to the Nova Scotia Advocate. She was one of the talented writers selected for the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program, offered by the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia. Unspoken Truth, unmuted and unfiltered, a collection of her poetry, was published earlier this year.

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  1. African Canadians and First Nations across Canada we’re never invited to the table when Canada Day was created.

    Happy White Peoples Day!

  2. Until Racism, classim and all other isms are no longer profitable to those who benefit such behaviors, policies and practices will persist.

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