Thoughts on Nationalism (Canada Day)

Happy Canada Day everyone!
 Is it wrong that I had to Google why we celebrate Canada Day? I thought it was our Birthday – and evidently I was correct. More specifically, it’s the day we commemorate the enactment of the British North American Act of 1867 when 3 colonies united to become Canada (thank YOU very much Wikipedia!)….
On July 1st we celebrate a lot like the Americans do on July 4th – with parades, fireworks, a few cold brewskies and a whole lot of red and white nationalism. The main difference is that I had to look up what our holiday means… I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who doesn’t know what the 4th of July is.
maple leafs
Nationalism is a funny thing. It brings the masses together in ways that are only paralleled by professional sports. Hockey in Canada, football in America, soccer (aka real football) in Europe… It creates a sense of community. It’s a set of values we’re all taught to be proud of. And yet it’s also inherently violent and incredibly damaging to so many groups of people.
Take Canada’s national identity, for instance. What do you think of when you think “Canadian”? A great white North, open spaces, toughness, maple syrup, bacon and Timmy Ho’s. Look at the emblems on our money – it’s all about the free wilderness and peaceful ruggedness. That may not be such a problem except that it helps to create a specific image of Canadian identity – images of who counts as a “real” Canadian man or woman. And of course, who doesn’t. Implications evolve from this, manifesting gender – rugged masculinity and the chaste woman – sexuality, class and race.
keep calm
More often than not, Nationalism obscures our history of genocide against aboriginal people – if not completely erases them.  It conjures up images of peaceful meals with intelligent “settlers” and happy “indians” breaking bread – never mind the Europeans stole Native land, raped their women, killed their children, performed forced sterilizations, corralled them into residential schools and to this day continue to perpetuate the damages done through out Canada’s “proud” history.

What about the Canadian Japanese Internment, “peace-keeping” in Somalia, compulsory sterilization of inmates, minorities, the mentally ill and anyone else we deemed “mental defectives”?

And today – the amount of people that die and lives that are destroyed as a result of our Imperialist wars and so-called “national security” baffles and disgusts me.

It happens at home, too. Look at the new Disney film The Lone Ranger. The original TV series was problematic enough with it’s stereotypical and racist connotations of the “primitive and submissive Indian”. Now we’ve completely erased him and slapped a white guy in his place. Indian? What Indian?

No one wants to talk about it – just shut up and eat cake on our national holiday, right? Look at all the pretty exploding lights. Distracting spectacle after distracting spectacle after distracting spectacle.
I hate nationalism. Almost as much as I hate the cotton the dentist puts in my mouth. And that’s saying something. 
I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate and enjoy the freedom we get to live in our country. But paying respect to our real history and homage to those who aren’t as privileged as us – both within our borders and beyond – is important. Knowing our place in both the continued oppression of certain people and in the grander scheme of things is important. Our real history, is important. Denying the nationalist systemic issues that spur this kind of thinking both in the present day and historically is just as damaging. Blind nationalism is a culture of violence that feeds on ignorance and denial.
Be aware. Pay respect. And if you can, do something.
Happy Canada Day, my lovelies.


  • Teresa,
    July 1, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    I agree with your stance on Nationalism, historically a not good thing, culinarily a traditional thing.
    4th of July looms and we are seeing flags, fireworks, parades & BBQ’s here in the USA….I just have to take the good of all this and leave the bad and Keep Calm and Drink a Beer.

    • Kristy Gardner
      July 4, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      True that Teresa – Nationalism has many facets. It’d be interesting to get into a discussion about culinary traditions. There are so many problems with imported food from around the globe, yet at the same time it’s very much a part of cultural identity.

      I like your style – save a bottle for me!