Last week, 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 are not the first, and likely not the last.
With July 1st just a few days away, people are questioning what celebrating Canada really means— both this year and from now on. On Social Media, calls to #CancelCanadaDay have gathered serious momentum, forcing us all to look closely at how– and what– we choose to celebrate.
For residential school survivors and their descendents, devastating social, cultural and psychological impacts have been reverberating ever since. 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 critique Canada. The point is not, as some fear, to “tear down” an idea of Canada that was formed in 1867, 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:
- Educate yourself as a company about Indigenous traditional territories (native-land.ca), the T&R report and its 94 calls-to-action, and how to act in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples.
- Put a pause on your product messaging and focus instead on what this day means to all of Canada’s communities.
- Commit to diversify your workforce to better reflect the diversity of experiences in Canada.
- 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 the next 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:
- Review Truth & Reconciliation Commissions 94 Calls to Action
- Take this free course on Indigenous Canada
- Educate yourself on the Residential School System
- Learn more about ways you can help Indigenous communities
- Learn and take action with this Instagram Resource Guide
- Here’s a list of 35 Books to read
- Recommended movies to watch for Indigenous History Month (check out the comment section too)
- Learn about the History of the Term 2Spirit and Location Names that have origins from Indigenous language