The Purpose of Canada Day

In 2021, Cowessess First Nation leaders announced the discovery in Saskatchewan of 751 unmarked  graves on the former site of an Indian residential school. This haunting news comes only a few weeks after a similar discovery in Tk’emlups of another 215 childrens’ graves. These findings were not the first and, tragically, are likely not the last.

With July 1st just a few days away, people often begin questioning what celebrating Canada really means. On Social Media, calls to #CancelCanadaDay have gathered momentum, forcing us all to look closely at how – and what – we choose to celebrate.

For residential school survivors and their descendants, devastating social, cultural and psychological impacts have been reverberating for years. For many other Canadians, the reality of Canada’s past is only beginning to set in. Depressingly often, dark chapters are glossed over or whitewashed in Canadian history classes. If Canada itself hasn’t been a place for everyone at all times, exactly for whom is Canada now? And how can we help, as individuals, institutions, or companies, change that for the better?

To remain proud, we need to remain purposeful. To be truly patriotic, we need to be okay with critiquing Canada. The point is not, as some fear, to “tear down” our history but, rather, to honour our country’s diversity and complexity by engaging its less-heard voices in the process of continually creating a Canada worthy of fireworks and song.

Here are some ways brands can start honouring Canada Day with purpose:

  1. Educate yourself as a company about Indigenous traditional territories (, the T&R report and its 94 calls-to-action, and how to act in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples.
  2. Put a pause on your product messaging and focus instead on what this day means to all of Canada’s communities.   
  3. Commit to diversify your workforce to better reflect the diversity of experiences in Canada.
  4. Join diversity pledges like the 15% Pledge to represent Indigenous, Black and Creators of Colour in your supply chain.

As a purpose-driven agency, we work with companies to discover and own their unique roles in creating a more just and inclusive society. Together with our client Hudson’s Bay Foundation, we recently developed a platform which is a $30 million commitment to advancing racial equity in Canada over ten years. Through this mission, they aim to impact 300,000 lives through various partner programs.

We are proud to be part of this ongoing work. But changing the statistics of opportunity is only part of a broader mission of creating a Canada we can all celebrate. The story we tell ourselves about Canada’s history affects how we see it in the present, and where we want it to go.  How we choose to mark significant days like Canada Day is part of that equation. Individuals, institutions and brands like yours all play a role in creating the conditions for choosing fairer, more inclusive and purposeful forms of celebration.    

In the spirit of allyship, we also encourage businesses to consider internal communications to staff to acknowledge the weight of the day and share anti-racism resources, such as: