By Barrett Schultz, October 26 2017 —
Canadians are often grouped together with our neighbours down south. We try to resist this by protesting that we are clearly distinct, but Canadian citizens sometimes fail to understand the distinction between American and Canadian Thanksgiving, especially in regards to North America’s connection to the gruesome past of colonialism.
It’s no secret that the treatment of Indigenous populations in Canada has been disgusting and wrong. We should always condemn it and ensure we are battling emerging forms of discrimination. However, condemning a holiday isn’t helpful. Canadian Thanksgiving is based on unity and thankfulness. What many Canadians fail to — or choose not to — remember is that our Thanksgiving originated as a harvest festival. Americans celebrate Columbus Day in October, an explicit celebration of Christopher Columbus establishing a colonial society. Thanksgiving in Canada is not the same.
Modern Thanksgiving may not be as heavily linked to harvests as it once was, but it is a holiday where people around the country can gather with their families and give thanks for food, family, friends and health. With all the negativity in the world, a day intended for harmony shouldn’t be brought into divisive political correctness debates.
This isn’t to say that people should stop advocating for Indigenous rights, equality and recognition. But we should not condemn Canadian Thanksgiving because of negative past events. Instead of wasting time on something with little historical relation to the problems being discussed people should spend time tactfully facing real issues affecting Indigenous communities.
The irony within this topic was seen in the Canada 150 celebrations, which the Canadian government recently spent half a billion dollars on. It’s sad that we refuse to acknowledge the existence of nations before Canada was established. Among holidays that show disrespect and disregard towards Indigenous heritage, Canada Day is the worst offender, but we won’t stop celebrating it anytime soon.
Rather than fight over a holiday, look for weightier problems regarding Indigenous Canadians, such as missing and murdered Indigenous women or the alarmingly high suicide rate within Indigenous communities. These are serious topics that need to be at the forefront of our discussions. It’s embarrassing that they are swept under the rug while complaints about an unrelated holiday fill up airwaves. If you want to support the Indigenous populations of Canada, stop shaming people for celebrating thankfulness and start fighting alongside those who want to make true progress.
As a Canadian, you can show your support for Indigenous communities in multiple ways, especially through time and money. Various non-profit organizations across the country need both, such as Reconciliation Canada, where you can volunteer for a variety of positions. Organizations that revolve around Indigenous youth and children are always in need of donations to support the activities they organize. An alarming 60 per cent of Indigenous children live in poverty, so these organizations are vitally important. Indspire helps support and fund Indigenous youth and their post-secondary endeavours — we all know how expensive that is.
Canada has a dark past with our Indigenous populations that has caused a variety of current issues. But Thanksgiving isn’t the best target for people who want to change things. It’s a misuse of time and energy to bicker over a holiday revolving around eating turkey when opportunities to make real differences present themselves nationwide.