Canada Day 2021
On this beautiful July 1st in Manitoba, my family and I are celebrating Canada Day. But it feels a bit different than years’ past.
Normally, we would plan to watch fireworks with big crowds of people, perhaps at the Forks in Winnipeg or in Lac du Bonnet. We’d likely have many friends and loved ones out at the cottage to have a few cold ones and bask in the summer heat.
But this year is, in a word, subdued. The year of COVID-19 has been hell. We’re tired, worrisome of gathering in large groups, and emotionally exhausted from the daily news of case counts and death counts and new restrictions. We’ve been locked in our homes for the better part of the last 18 month, with our rights restricted to a disturbing degree. People have lived in fear for their lives from a deadly new virus that is ravaging the world.
As an Member of Parliament, I’ve spoken to hundreds of constituents and heard from thousands more. Families have had a rough year. The horrific impact of isolation on seniors and those in long term care is measurable, and it’s been torturous for our children. Hundreds of thousands of “non-essential” small businesses have closed, each one representing a family, a community, and part of the local culture, gone forever.
During depressive moments over the past year, I’ve often thought of my grandfather who died recently at 91. His grandfather had fled warring eastern Europe in the late 1890s to come to Canada. My ancestors had been subject to religious persecution in the Old Country, and there was no available farming land left. Canada was free and full of opportunities and cheap land. But life was very difficult. There were no social services or affordable health care. “Human rights” and “women’s rights” were not common concepts. They were poor and uneducated. They had no choice but to work and toil in the fields, or they didn’t eat. My great-great grandmother had 9 children, only 3 survived to adulthood.
But after four generations of Canadian settlement, of pouring their blood, sweat and tears into this land and embracing the hardship, their descendent received a university education and went on to become a Member of Parliament. Quite the feat, all things considered.
And my origin story shares much in common with new Canadian immigrants whom I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting over the course of my political career. Canada brings in upwards of 350,000 immigrants each year, some of the highest numbers in the world. Few are from countries as beautiful, safe, prosperous and free as Canada. I’ve never met a immigrant that doesn’t work hard or love Canada and all the opportunities it has provided to them and their families.
I’ve also had the great honour of meeting many veterans and active service members of our Canadian Armed Forces. Over 74,000 Canadian soldiers tragically and horrifically died defending our freedoms from fascism and tyranny during the First and Second World Wars. Thousands more have died or carry life long scars (both visible and not) from their service to Canada since then. And I am grateful, emotionally so, for their sacrifices for all of us. Living in a peaceful, secure, prosperous and free country is the exception, not the norm in our world’s history.
More recently, Canadians have watched as hundreds of unmarked graves of children have been found at the sites of former Indian Residential Schools, a cruel and viscous reminder of the darkest chapter in Canadian history; a reminder that these wounds are generational and continue to haunt many in our Indigenous communities to this day. Every time I think about this, I can’t help but visualize the horrors of small children being ripped from their mother’s arms, as the mother weeps and pleads and screams, only for those children to be taken, abused, culturally shamed, and often never returned home. Many mothers never knew what happened to their children. Now we know.
In my lifetime, Indigenous history in Canada has gone from relative obscurity to front and centre. Truth and Reconciliation is alive. Canadians are learning and talking about how we can build a better Canada, a stronger, more compassionate Canada, for everyone. This is a watershed moment in our history.
I believe in Canada, in how far we have come, and recognize the hardships our ancestors endured. For that I am also a proud Canadian. A patriot. I believe the future in Canada will be better, brighter, than the past in Canada.
I believe in Indigenous Canadians, in their beautiful culture, and that Indigenous children will thrive, and be encouraged to embrace their identity, as they should have been 150 years ago. Together, we can build a better, more inclusive, more just Canada for all of us.
This year, nearly 1000 households of constituents reached out to my office for Canadian flag lawn signs to commemorate our country’s name day. I was deeply touched by this. We have all dealt with a lot of tough times lately, but despite this difficult year, people still believe in Canada and believe we’re going to get through this. And that is the most positive, encouraging, and hopeful thing I have heard all year.
Happy Canada Day
Raquel Dancho, M.P.