In the wake of the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school in British Columbia, a further 751 unmarked graves have been discovered on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. Other unmarked graves in Brandon, Manitoba and in Regina and Lestock, Saskatchewan have also come to light. With the grounds of well over 100 schools (and possibly many, many more) still left to search, it is highly likely that other unmarked graves will be uncovered in the coming months and years.
The grisly discovery of these graves is bringing home the brutal reality of the genocide of Indigenous people for many across the country. As a result, we are witnessing a broad debate and a significant change in views on Canada’s colonial past and present.
The hashtags #CancelCanadaDay and #NoPrideinGenocide have trended on social media. This anger has also sparked a wave of direct action against some of the hated figures from Canada’s and Britain’s colonial history. Statues of some of the architects of the residential school system and symbols of British imperialism, for example, have been toppled in Toronto and defaced in Victoria and Edmonton, and a Catholic cathedral in Saskatoon was covered in paint. As Trudeau tries to shift the focus of blame from the government to the church, multiple churches have burned to the ground in British Columbia.
With Canada Day on July 1 fast approaching, the debate has now centred on whether the national holiday should be celebrated at all. Since the most recent graves were discovered, several municipalities have cancelled Canada Day festivities, including Victoria, Penticton, and Port Hardy in British Columbia, as well as St. Albert in Alberta. Lac La Ronge, La Ronge and Air Ronge in Saskatchewan have also cancelled celebrations, as have Belleville, Ontario and a number of communities in New Brunswick.
A sea change
The anger at the discovery of the unmarked graves has revealed a sea change in attitudes towards Indigenous struggle. Two significant polls have been conducted in relation to Indigenous issues this month, one by the Innovative Research Group and the other by Abacus Data in conjunction with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Assembly of First Nations.
In general, any given poll should be taken with a grain of salt. Polls generally provide a snapshot of the mood in society at any given time, and different polls can sometimes reveal contradictory trends and results. However, these recent polls on Indigenous issues and the residential schools do in fact reveal that a massive shift in class consciousness is taking place across the country, driven by Indigenous struggle.
The Innovative Research poll showed a marked leap in awareness of Indigenous issues. In fact the level of awareness has reached a record high. According to the poll, “Canadians have never been more aware of Indigenous issues. The number who have read, seen, or heard something lately about Canada’s Indigenous peoples is now at 75%. In 4 out of the 5 times we tracked in the past, that number was 42 or 43%. Back in 2007 it was at 52%.”
The report continues:
“There is no question this increased awareness is due to the Kamloops discovery. Three quarters (77%) of Canadians are at least somewhat familiar with the discovery of the bodies. This is very unusual for an Indigenous news event. In 2019, just 48% were at least somewhat familiar of the report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. In 2015, just 41% were at least somewhat familiar with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
Greg Lyle, the president of Innovative Research Group explained the following:
“Something important is happening on Indigenous issues… I started tracking attitudes on Indigenous issues in the early 90s. I have never seen Canadians this engaged. People are angry about residential schools and they expect more from their governments. Perhaps more importantly, we have seen core attitudes changing. There is more acceptance of Canada’s moral obligation towards Indigenous peoples. There is more willingness to recognize specific rights to protect Indigenous culture and practices. Indigenous organizations are seen more favourably. Governments and other organizations that have relationships with Indigenous peoples need to take this seriously. This time looks different.”
Also significantly, according to the poll, 81 per cent are angry when thinking about the treatment of Indigenous peoples in residential schools (54 per cent are “very angry” with 27 per cent “somewhat angry”).
In summarizing some of the results of the poll, a recent CBC article explained that:
“According to Innovative Research, 68 per cent of Canadians agree that residential schools ‘created issues that still require government responses today.’ Sixty-three per cent say the federal government should be doing more to address the problems facing Indigenous peoples — that’s up 17 points since 2019. Sixty-eight per cent strongly or somewhat agree that Canadians have a ‘duty’ to resolve the inequalities faced by Indigenous peoples — up 11 points since 2019.”
The poll conducted by Abacus also highlighted similar trends. According to the poll summary, 49 per cent have a new appreciation of the damage done by residential schools and “polling results identify that 93 percent of Canadians are aware of the discovery of remains at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, with 58 percent of Canadians following the news closely.”
The summary continues: “The majority of Canadians are unequivocal about whom should take responsibility for the damage done by the residential school system. Ninety percent of respondents believe that the federal government is liable for the damage caused by residential schools, followed by the Catholic Church (81 percent) and the RCMP (80 percent).”
Perhaps most significantly, the poll found that 58 per cent agreed that the residential school system was a policy of genocide (25 per cent “strongly agree” and 33 per cent agree). This rises to 60 per cent among immigrants.
Here there are also some interesting demographic differences: while a majority across all age groups agree that the residential schools were a policy of genocide, this rises to 69 per cent among young people. The results for youth are significant and not accidental.
Also of note is the breakdown of opinions on genocide according to political leanings. While the categories (left, centre left, centre right, right etc.) are not precisely defined, we still see some interesting results. Eight-two per cent of the “left” agree that it was genocide, with 69 per cent of the “centre left” also agreeing. Interestingly, the only political leaning group where the majority do not agree it was genocide is the “centre right”, with only 44 per cent agreeing (it’s 54 per cent for the “right”, which perhaps allows us to wonder why they agree it was genocide).
Quantity into quality
Why is the news of the mass of unmarked graves at residential schools having a greater impact than the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls? The Indigenous struggle, like any other social struggle, has its ebbs and flows, but why is the Indigenous struggle having such an impact on social consciousness now?
The first and most obvious reason is the discovery of the unmarked graves itself. Many people in Canada may have been unaware of the brutality of the residential school system, or the policy itself. For others, the residential school system was a distant historical fact, far removed from their day-to-day lives. The discovery of the graves has now made the brutality of the residential school system and the genocide of Indigenous peoples undeniable. This undeniable brutality of the residential schools is changing the way people understand Canada’s history, and this change in understanding is driving shifts in social consciousness.
But another reason we are seeing this shift in social consciousness is the dialectical transformation of quantity into quality. The Indigenous struggle against colonization and oppression can be traced back to centuries ago. In more recent times though, the Indigenous struggle has been a prominent feature of the class struggle in Canada, going back several decades. If we go back to the Oka Crisis (Kanesatake Resistance) in 1990, we see an almost uninterrupted eruption of struggles: in Ipperwash (1995), Ts’peten/Gustafsen Lake (1995), Esgenoôpetitj/Burnt Church (1999), and the struggles of the Haudenosaunee around Kanonhstaton in Ontario (2006-2008).
Even more recently, the Indigenous struggle has been at the forefront of the class struggle in general. We have seen the struggles in Baffinland, the launching of Idle No More, the renewed struggle of the Haudenosaunee with the 1492 Land Back Lane movement, the Mi’kmaq and the question of fishing rights, and the struggle of Wet’suwet’en. In the midst of these struggles came the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. All of these struggles and events played a role in driving changes in social consciousness as people started to develop a deeper understanding of the history of Indigenous struggle.
The constant eruption of intense episodes of Indigenous struggle is forcing people to assess and reassess the situation. As they do their understanding of history deepens, and consciousness changes. The quantity of struggles eventually leads to a qualitative change in social consciousness.
Social being determines social consciousness
As Karl Marx explained, social being determines social consciousness. We cannot forget that the socioeconomic context in which these struggles are taking place is also important, and a significant factor in the changes taking place in class consciousness.
Capitalist society is in a deep crisis around the globe. The pandemic and the various lockdowns triggered and deepened an economic crisis that was on the verge of erupting in any case, exposing the rottenness of capitalist society for all to see. It struck a society where class polarization is developing and where there is a growing socialist consciousness among wide layers of workers and youth.
The propagandists of capitalism like to proclaim that “we are all in this together”. But everybody knows that this is not true. Everybody knows that we are in fact not all in this together. The working class and the poor have suffered the brunt of the pandemic in every sense. Most of the infections and deaths have affected the working class, especially the front-line, essential workers.
These essential workers were declared heroes at the start of the pandemic, and some even received a small bump in pay for a time. Now the hero pay has been taken away, and essential workers are facing a crisis of cuts and lockouts. The rich have gotten richer, the billionaires are amassing and hoarding wealth, and the big banks have doubled their profits, while in the meantime the working class and poor suffer.
Since the struggle of the Wet’suwet’en against the Coastal GasLink pipeline first erupted several years ago, the Indigenous struggle has been at the forefront of the class struggle in Canada. These struggles have been inherently anti-capitalist. In each case, Indigenous people have fought against private corporations encroaching on their land and denying their fundamental rights. Solidarity with Indigenous peoples and awareness of the brutality of colonization and genocide has grown with each new stage in these struggles as people become increasingly aware that Indigenous people are in struggle against the same capitalist class the broader working class is struggling against.
The right wing to the rescue
Predictably, various right-wing commentators and politicians have clumsily waded into these debates. Since the discovery of the mass of unmarked graves in Kamloops, and especially since the calls for the cancellation of Canada Day began trending on social media, the National Post and Sun Media in particular have published multiple articles in defence of Canadian history, in defence of historical figures such as John A. Macdonald, and in defence of the genocidal policies of colonization.
This isn’t hard to understand as many of these figures and policies were supported and enacted by the right wing in the past, and are policies the right wing continues to support to this day. At any rate, the right wing will never pass on an opportunity to defend the ruling class and its history.
There are almost too many of these articles to count, with each one seemingly stupider than the previous one. There isn’t space in this article to go through each one or to answer each of their arguments—that would require a book of many, many pages. But we can and must highlight some of these arguments and answer them.
The general method of the right wing is to engage in historical revisionism. They tend to ignore actual history, and whitewash the uncomfortable truths of the crimes of the ruling class and their state. Yes, the right wing tells us, some awful things have happened in Canadian history, but forget all of that because Canada is a great country!
Many of these articles barely acknowledge the discovery of the unmarked graves on the grounds of former residential schools. The actual history of colonization and genocide is ignored. If they do mention it, it is glossed over before the author begins to extol the virtues of Canada’s history.
It’s the same for the long list of other injustices and crimes committed by the ruling class in Canada’s history, which we have discussed in previous articles. The fact that Quebec was conquered and forced into Confederation as an oppressed nation is rarely mentioned, or presented as the peaceful union of two peoples. Japanese Canadians were interned during World War II, and Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany were refused entry to this country, they tell us, but Canada helped to defeat the Nazis, helped to win the Cold War and fought in the War on Terror!
An article in the Toronto Sun fits this mold perfectly. In response to Jagmeet Singh saying that Canada was a racist country, as well as the calls to cancel Canada Day, the author starts by saying “Cancel Canada Day celebrations? Not a chance! Some indigenous voices and minority communities have lately objected to Canada Day celebrations, based on some tragic recent events. Even some bleeding heart liberals have joined the bandwagon of condemning Canada as a political entity.”
Some tragic events? The discovery of the unmarked graves in Kamloops and the residential school system are simply “some tragic events”. While the deaths of the children at the schools eventually gets a throwaway mention, the author follows it up by saying, “It’s true that marginalized communities have suffered greatly in the past. But there is a readiness now to address the crimes of a bygone era. The majority of Canadians acknowledge these wrongs and wish to rectify them.” Some people suffered, but that’s all in the past! Nothing to see here, move along.
The author continues: “As far as defining ideals, Canada is definitely number one. Canada is a great country that stands up for humanitarian values. Our ideals of a pluralistic society based on humane principles are crystal clear. Moreover, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms makes no distinction between the diverse communities of Canadians.” This is followed up later with the statement that “It isn’t just Canada’s laws and policies, but the very fabric of Canadian society that exudes humanitarian principles of tolerance and civility.”
This is astounding stuff. What about the Indian Act? That act makes a clear distinction between communities in Canada, and it would be hard to argue that it “exudes humanitarian principles of tolerance and civility”. There have in fact been a number of articles in the capitalist media arguing that Canada is not a racist country. None of them mention the Indian Act. Never mind that racism and hate crimes are on the rise; the Indian Act enshrines racism as law in this country. The existence of the Indian Act alone demonstrates that racism is embedded in the foundations of the nation.
Another recent article in the Toronto Sun included a vigorous attack on attempts to cancel Canada Day and on Idle No More. With regard to the calls for the cancellation of Canada Day, at one point the article says: “These misguided individuals want to kill the one day each year that joins us in celebration of the good things and the good people who have made this land of ours a great nation… There’s no benefit in tearing down something that, for 154 years, has united us, hand in hand.”
One would assume the author of the article had to be utterly ignorant of Canada’s history in order to say something that breathtakingly stupid. But just a few paragraphs later we realize the author does know a thing or two when he is forced to admit that “It’s true there was no national celebration of Canada for the first 12 years after Confederation because Nova Scotians thought they had been forced into the partnership.”
Well, what about being united hand-in-hand for 154 years? There’s suddenly a growing list of people who at one point or another weren’t joining in the festivities on Canada Day hand-in-hand, i.e. Québécois, Indigenous peoples, Nova Scotians, including the many people today across the country today who do not want to celebrate after the discovery of the graves.
Jason Kenney hits the mark (for all the wrong reasons)
Just a few days after the discovery of the graves in Kamloops went public, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney launched an attack on “cancel culture” in defence of John A. Macdonald and Canada’s history in general. Kenney takes a slightly different approach, in that he acknowledges plenty of the injustices and crimes of Canada’s history:
“I think Canada is worth celebrating. I think Canada is a great historical achievement. It is a country that people all around the world seek to join as new Canadians. It is an imperfect country but it is still a great country, just as John Macdonald was an imperfect man, but was still a great leader. If we want to get into cancelling every figure in our history who took positions on issues at the time that we now judge harshly, and rightly, in historical retrospect, then I think almost the entire founding leadership of our country gets cancelled.”
Was John A. Macdonald great? We’ve already discussed this in previous articles, but if being great includes the oppression of Quebec, and the residential school system, then John A. Macdonald must be really great. Or maybe Kenney thinks John A. Macdonald is great because of his grand legacy, the Canadian Pacific Railway? Does this greatness also include the treatment of Chinese immigrant workers on the railway where, let’s not forget, one Chinese worker died for every mile of track laid?
Further along Kenney says, “So if we go full-force into cancel culture, then we’re cancelling most, if not all, of our history,” and later adds: “If the new standard is to cancel any figure in our history associated with what we now rightly regard as historical injustices, then essentially that is the vast majority of our history.”
The right wing is trying to center the debate on “cancelling” history. Kenney says we cannot cancel our history, we must learn from it. This is utterly dishonest. It’s not about cancelling history at all. For the right wing, arguments about cancel culture are used as a shield to protect against any criticism of Canada’s history.
Kenney is right about one thing though: injustices and crimes were carried out for “the vast majority of our history”. He even provides us with numerous examples, such as Wilfrid Laurier and his anti-immigrant policies in the form of the Chinese head tax and the “continuous journey” policy. This is the same Laurier who signed an order in council intended to keep out Black Americans escaping segregation in the south in 1911.
Kenney also informs us of William Lyon Mackenzie King’s “none is too many” policy that made it impossible for Jewish people fleeing Nazi Germany from coming to Canada as refugees. Kenney also mentions Trudeau Sr., who among other things such as the White Paper, brought in martial law in Quebec and suspended civil liberties across the country, which led to the arbitrary arrest and detention of thousands of people who had nothing to do with the FLQ crisis.
But one at a time Mr. Kenney! There are so many “black marks” and crimes in Canada’s history that they couldn’t all possibly be dealt with at once. The focus is largely on John A Macdonald right now because of the role he played in the founding of the country, the oppression of Indigenous people, and the residential school system. But all these other figures, such as Laurier and Mackenzie King, will get what they deserve soon enough.
Don’t forget the left
Kenney also tells us about the eugenics policies, yet another crime, in Canada’s history. While the actual eugenics policies in Alberta are mentioned briefly, he focuses his fire on Tommy Douglas and members of the Famous Five. Kenney tells us that Tommy Douglas recommended the use of eugenics to sterilize the weak and later says we must learn from “the eugenics proposed by Tommy Douglas, or the history of eugenics here in Alberta.”
But Kenney’s retelling of history here is fundamentally dishonest. Yes, in 1933 Tommy Douglas wrote his master’s thesis on eugenics, which included his proposals for sterilization in some cases. There was a disturbing level of support for eugenics in the West in the early 20th century, including Tommy Douglas, and this shouldn’t be airbrushed from history either.
But what Kenney doesn’t mention is that by the time he was premier of Saskatchewan in 1944, Douglas had dropped his support for eugenics policies. In fact, when Douglas was in power he was presented on two occasions with official reviews of Saskatchewan’s mental health system, which recommended the government adopt eugenics policies. Douglas rejected these policies and the CCF governments under Douglas never implemented them.
Eugenics policies were, however, implemented in British Columbia and Alberta. These policies were in place in Alberta from the 1930s to the 1970s. One thing Kenney certainly didn’t mention was that in the late 1990s, his personal hero Ralph Klein passed Bill 26 to limit the amount of money that could be awarded in compensation to the victims of these policies.
Erin O’Toole misses the mark
Erin O’Toole found the news about the unmarked grave in Kamloops “very troubling” and “dreadful”, but he is “concerned that injustices in our past, or in our present, are too often seized upon by a small group of activist voices who use it to attack the very idea of Canada itself.” He seems to have stopped trying to claim that the residential schools “were designed to provide education.”
When O’Toole made those comments, he was speaking to the Ryerson University Conservative club, where he argued against the “woke” campaign to rename the institution and for the removal of the Egerton Ryerson statue.
This is another general approach of the right wing, especially O’Toole. According to O’Toole, the uncovering of and focus on the crimes of Canada’s past, the calls for the removal of statues and names from institutions, the calls to cancel Canada Day, all of these things could only come from a small minority of “activists” who want to “tear Canada down”.
But some of the recent poll results already discussed above would say otherwise. In addition, the Abacus poll revealed the following: “On the heels of the removal of the Egerton Ryerson statue in Toronto and discussions around changing the name of the university named in his honour, appetite is high among Canadians for symbolic measures to erase relics of Canada’s racist past and honour those who were adversely affected by them. Fifty-eight percent of Canadians want to see buildings and institutions named after the architects of the residential school system renamed. Sixty-five percent of Canadians would be in support of a national statutory holiday honoring the survivors and victims of the residential school system.”
According to the Conservatives, it was only a “mob of vandals”, or “Marxist vandals” and “criminals”, who toppled the Ryerson statue against the will of the majority. But again, this narrative doesn’t fit the facts. While it may have been a minority of protestors who toppled the statue, it would seem that they were, in a direct and radical manner, expressing the will of the majority.
There are calls to rename Ryerson University itself. Cornwallis Park in Halifax was renamed Peace and Friendship Park and Dundas Street in Toronto is on the verge of being renamed. John A. Macdonald’s name and likeness have been removed from a lot of places in the recent period, including the $10 bill, and from the Ottawa airport. Statues of Macdonald have been toppled in Montreal, and removed in Kingston, Regina, Charlottetown and Picton.
As the scale of the atrocities committed against Indigenous peoples is increasingly revealed, more and more statues will be removed and more names will be changed, as they should. The right wing will froth at the mouth, and continue to argue that removing names and statues is “cancelling” or “erasing” history.
The right wing argues that removing statues of the monsters of Canada’s history is “cancelling” or “erasing” history. They say the same when it comes to renaming parks, streets, and institutions.
This is nonsense. People want statues removed and names changed precisely because they know their history. Removing statues and names is more about understanding and acknowledging actual history, not the historical myths peddled by the ruling class and the right wing.
Statues and names of institutions are not so much about history, but about the history we are celebrating and venerating. Once people begin to learn actual history, it makes sense that they would begin to wonder why Canadian society would be venerating some real monsters—monsters who implemented racist policies and genocide.
Furthermore, history is not only preserved in statues. History is taught in schools, displayed in museums, explained in books, and preserved in countless other ways. But what about the education system?
Some of the most interesting results from the Abacus poll were in relation to education. Sixty-two per cent of respondents said students didn’t learn enough about residential schools in their province. Seventy per cent said that schools tend to play down or understate what happened at residential schools. Three per cent said that when they learned about residential schools it was framed “very positively”, seven per cent said it was framed “more positively than negatively” and 41 per cent said they didn’t learn about it at all!
Kenney for example argues that we need to keep these statues in order to preserve history, but then presides over a curriculum that removes educational components about residential schools because it is “too sad”. Chris Champion, one of the Alberta government’s advisors on the curriculum, has previously said that including Indigenous perspectives in school lessons is a “fad”. Now he’s arguing that the 215 graves discovered in Kamloops is not evidence of genocide. Talk about erasing history!
The fact is that the right wing wants to preserve a sanitized version, and a mythologized version, of Canada’s history. This is a myth that erases the brutal history of colonization and the continued genocide of Indigenous peoples, and ignores or prettifies many of the injustices and crimes committed in the name of capitalism.
In making these arguments and trying to preserve these statues, the right wing doesn’t want people to learn the actual facts of history. Learning the actual facts of history brings people to conclusions that the right wing cannot accept, i.e. people are not just concluding that Canada’s history has some black marks. People are concluding that Canada’s history is permeated with rot, that the founding of the country and its current history are in fact based on these rotten foundations. People are beginning to conclude that something must be done about this—not just words, or symbolic gestures, but something must actually be done. An historical reckoning is at hand.
Friedrich Engels once remarked the following about morality:
“We maintain on the contrary that all moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time. And as society has hitherto moved in class antagonisms, morality has always been class morality; it has either justified the domination and the interests of the ruling class, or ever since the oppressed class became powerful enough, it has represented its indignation against this domination and the future interests of the oppressed.”
It’s the same with history. History is of course more than a social construct or a narrative. History is fact. But these facts can be debated depending on one’s class point of view. For the Russian czar and ruling class, indeed for the capitalist class around the world, the Russian Revolution was a monstrous, criminal event. Why? Because they lost their power and privilege. For the working class, peasants, and oppressed nationalities it was an incredibly liberating and progressive event.
It’s the same for the fundamentally different views of Canada’s history. For the ruling class and the right wing, the end justifies the means. The morality of the ruling class determines its view of Canada’s history. According to the right wing, the domination of the ruling class itself justifies Canada’s history, including its crimes and injustices. These crimes and injustices were in fact necessary for the capitalist class to achieve its rule. That’s why the right wing have to defend these monsters. For the ruling class, its power and rule, its prosperity and position on world markets more than justify the colonization of the country, the subjugation of Indigenous peoples, the oppression of Quebec.
The working class and youth, in the context of the shocks to consciousness received with the general crisis of capitalism, the prominence of Indigenous struggle, and the discovery of the graves, are coming to opposite conclusions. Workers and youth are increasingly breaking radically with the past, with the history of Canadian capitalism, replete with oppression and exploitation. This leads them to breaking radically with Canada’s capitalist present and future. For workers and youth, they are rising against this domination of the ruling class and starting the fight for a new future.
How to really cancel Canada Day
As mentioned above, polling results can often be contradictory. The polls discussed above show that a majority are angry about the residential schools and want to see something done about the continued oppression of Indigenous peoples.
Another recent poll showed, however, that despite these sentiments in support of Indigenous struggle among the majority of people, only a small minority actually want to see Canada Day cancelled. Interestingly, only 46 per cent agree with the right wing that Canada “is one of the best countries to live in the world”.
In any case, the poll was conducted just before the discovery of the 751 graves in Saskatchewan, which likely would have had an impact on this poll. Nonetheless, when asked “Do you feel with all the questions about Canada and its historical record, it would be best to cancel Canada Day this year?” the poll shows that only 14 per cent would be in favour of cancelling Canada Day.
We shouldn’t necessarily be disheartened by these results though. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the anger about the discovery of the graves and the history of residential schools should translate into a desire to cancel Canada Day.
As mentioned, the results could have been different had the poll been conducted after the discovery of the 751 graves in Saskatchewan. Furthermore, some people may want to celebrate Canada Day out of a desire for unity, or a desire for “reconciliation”, which will be one inevitable result of the discoveries at the residential schools. This is another line being pushed by the capitalist media. Others may want to preserve the statutory holiday and worry they may lose a day off work, and still others may be looking forward to festivities after long lockdowns and a draining pandemic. And yes, some will want to celebrate out of a sense of patriotism and nationalism. If we continue to argue for solidarity and unity with Indigenous people, and continue to expose the crimes of Canadian capitalism, it is entirely possible that more and more people will become determined not to celebrate Canada Day.
While agitating for the cancellation of Canada Day is a worthwhile pursuit and a powerful propaganda tool, it also shouldn’t necessarily be our primary goal. Changing street names, removing statues, and even cancelling Canada Day are victories, but largely symbolic. We should understand that, where statues have been removed and Canada Day has actually been cancelled, these are but symbolic sacrifices the ruling class and political establishment are prepared to make in order to appease the mood of anger coursing through society.
Even if Canada Day is cancelled in a number of places this year, it is unlikely to be cancelled forever. Canada Day will always be a celebration of capitalist Canada, including all its historic crimes and present injustices. It will always be a celebration of the ruling class’ version of history, and its vision for the future. The ruling class may concede here and there and cancel this year or maybe next, but they won’t allow the celebration of their self-perceived greatness to be abolished forever. An uglier Canadian nationalism is already forming to fight these battles. A key task thus becomes the continued exposure of the crimes of Canadian capitalism and to promote the continuation of the shifts in social consciousness we are witnessing today.
We too must fight these ideological battles and expose the crimes of the ruling class and capitalism in general. Canada is founded on the oppression of Indigneous peoples and Quebec. Canada is founded on the brutal exploitation of the working class and immigrants. These things continue to this very day. The crimes of Canada’s past are reflected in its present crimes, which can be summed up as the needs of profit over the needs of people. In order to radically break with Canada’s past, we must also radically break with Canada’s present. Canada’s present is a capitalist society in deep crisis. Polarization is deepening and the class struggle is intensifying.
The fight against Canada Day is the fight against the ruling class. The fight against the ruling class is the fight against capitalism. This is a fight against pandemic profiteering, against austerity, low wages, and unaffordable housing. It’s the fight against racism and the continuation of the residential school policies in the form of foster care. It’s the fight for an immediate solution to all drinking water advisories and an end to poverty in First Nations communities. It’s the fight for Indigenous land and resource rights and against the continued corporate and government encroachment of Indigenous lands. Only through militant class struggle, through determined class unity between the workers and all oppressed peoples, only by overthrowing capitalism and establishing a socialist society of genuine equality, can we end the misery of capitalism and put an end to the ruling class’s Canada Day once and for all.