“Canada 150 is a celebration of genocide and colonialism,” says Brendan Copegog White, an Ojibway person and one of the primary organizers of Ottawa’s Anti Capitalist May Day being held on May 1.
White is not the only one to feel some animosity toward the celebrations. A social media movement has begun with the hashtag #Resistance150.
The event hopes to bring many together for a march starting at Major’s Hill Park at 12 p.m. The first day of May, also known as May Day or International Workers’ Day, has often been used as a day of unified protest. The Facebook event states that people are invited to stand up against oppressive frameworks such as capitalism, colonialism, white supremacy and imperialism – to name a few.
“Canada itself is a settler colonial state that was found and maintained by the displacement, genocide, and oppression of indigenous peoples,” wrote White over Facebook Messenger. “The celebration of Canada’s founding is a celebration of this past, this present, and this reality.”
These charts show that, though many Canadians are gearing up to celebrate poutine and public health care, for some, these past 150 years have only brought forth greater challenges.
White says that, when he first arrived in Ottawa three years ago, he noticed that locals did not emphasize socialism, anti capitalism, and working class power the way many do on May Day. He wants to change that.
“We wanted to bring it closer to its roots and bring back the open revolutionary politics that are a corner stone of true communist politics and organizing,” writes White. “Now, this year, we are having an Anti Capitalist and Anti Colonial May Day.”
Rewriting the Timeline
The Canadian Museum of History’s Canada Hall has been closed since 2014 for extensive renovations, a total rebranding, and for what seems to be a different approach to Canada’s historical narrative. But many argue that these small, symbolic gestures are not enough.
Within Canada, Indigenous communities are struggling to reclaim their heritage, which has been suppressed, while healing from the trauma left behind by their mistreatment, such as within residential schools. For many, the road to reconciliation is long and bleak.
King is Pottawatomi and Ojibwe from Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island in Huronia, Ontario, and he is currently teaching Indigenous Studies at Carleton University.
When asked whether he feels pride in Canada, King’s answer was a decisive, “no.”
He says the health care system, education system, land and resource regime and etc. are not Indigenous institutions. They are Canadian, and he says Canadians therefore have the responsibility of changing them.
“So there’s certainly a very long history of misrepresentation and appropriation among non-indigenous, often white Canadians, and that is harmful. It’s incumbent upon Canadians to educate themselves of the history of this country – not the 150 narrative around the nationalist celebration. But they must really understand settler colonialism and how it has worked and continues to work,” says King.
For a country that is used to being praised, it might be difficult for some to hear, but many will not be cheering for Canada’s 150 celebrations – particularly those that lost their freedom to the confederation in 1867.
King says Canadians should educate themselves, befriend Indigenous people and do their best to fight for structural changes that could help better Indigenous communities.
I’M NOT JOSHING