It is a common refrain: for heaven’s sake, move on. A few moments’ thought ought
to reveal how simplistic it is. You can’t steal a generation of children from their
parents and expect the effects to wear off in half a century. But what the hell:
in keeping with Canada 150’s allergy to history, let’s focus on the present.
Trudeau’s Liberals talked an awfully big game about getting to work on it. Its
bite has already proven weaker than its bark. Trudeau promised to eliminate
boil-water advisories on First Nations reserves within five years. That won’t
even come close to happening.
The government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars fighting a human
rights tribunal order to fund First Nations child services equitably; in
opposition, the Liberals would have screamed bloody murder about that.
On Wednesday evening, indigenous protesters marched on to Parliament Hill and, after some back and forth with the local constabulary, erected a large white tepee. The group’s leaders told reporters they intended to “reoccupy” “unceded Algonquin territory,” and remind Canadians that “reconciliation” with the people who were here before them lies far down a bumpy road.
If nothing else, it was a welcome moment of coherence: big white tepee, Parliament Hill, three days before Canada Day — no one is going to wonder what that’s about. By contrast, I’m not sure what “Canada 150,” the officially branded and hash-tagged celebration of this country’s existence, is supposed to be. It certainly isn’t a focused reflection on Canada’s history, much less on Confederation. Passport2017.ca, the Canada 150 online portal, reads like an in-flight magazine’s Canada Day edition.
You can check in with the “Canada 150 Ambassadors.” Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright appreciates Canada’s “civility, reasoning and compassion.” Sprinter Bruny Surin appreciates moving from Haiti to a country where, his mother told him, anyone can accomplish anything. Nobel laureate astrophysicist Art McDonald provides the obligatory shout-out to Lester Pearson’s role in the Suez Crisis.
TV chef Ricardo Larrivée has a video series celebrating “Canada’s culinary chops.” It’s called “We Are the Best,” which reflects Canadians’ renowned modesty. On a scattershot list of “150 essentials” you’ll find Canada 150-branded merchandise; a list of “The Trailer Park Boys’ favourite things”; chances to win concert tickets; a story about how Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama “rekindle(d) their bromance”; “18 Canadian craft gins to sip this summer”; a biography of Sebastian Bach.
Approved Canada 150 events include Countryfest in Dauphin, Man.; the Festival de la Chanson in Tadoussac, Que.,; and a “Calgary Stampeders home game.” Basically, Canadian officialdom is celebrating its sesquicentennial by putting two coats of nationalist polish on a typical Canadian summer.