While we love Canada, this Canada Day we must come to terms with the reality that this is a time for serious reflection. There are realities of our past that must be recognized, accepted, reconciled and never repeated.
As a country we are facing enormous challenges. When COVID-19 struck, it put millions of us into lockdown and put millions more front-line workers in harm’s way. Their courage and sacrifices gave us new pride in ourselves and our ability to rise to the call.
We are so proud of how our members have put their lives and health on the line to keep Ontario running during this difficult time. Each of you are heroes and a big reason why Ontario now reports under 200 COVID-19 cases for the first time since September of last year.
However, there are some sombre realities that Canadians must face up to.
Last summer, cities everywhere saw Black Lives Matter protests following the deaths of George Floyd, Regis Korchinski-Paquet and Breonna Taylor.
We saw ugly anti-Asian racism as members of the Asian community were verbally and physically assaulted, absurdly accused of starting and spreading COVID-19.
Even as the pandemic numbers fell, the terrible news came of the unmarked graves of 215 Indigenous children at a B.C. residential school and 751 more graves at Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan. The horror of residential schools was brutally brought home for millions of people in this country.
It’s not surprising some don’t want to celebrate Canada Day this year. But rather than ignoring it, we believe we can observe Canada Day in a different way.
While we celebrate what we’ve accomplished together in the last year, let’s also reflect upon the deep historical injustices perpetuated in the name of building our country.
This Canada Day let’s commit to the principles of equity and social justice, inclusion and opportunities for all. Let’s double our efforts towards reconciliation between the Indigenous Peoples and settlers.
Loving Canada means understanding that, whereas this is a land where great things have been accomplished, great mistakes have been made as well. This is a time to reflect on our past and on our future. There is only one way to move forward: Together.
On this Canada Day, let’s reflect on what has been but dream of what can be.
OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida