Anthony Furey, Postmedia Network
, Last Updated: 7:02 PM ET
One of the main narratives about our nation over the past few weeks has been how Canada is some sort of cesspool of racism and intolerance, with a past hardly worth celebrating.
It’s impossible to overstate just how sad and unnecessary this tone was, on this of all occasions, to say nothing of factually wrong.
“We are Canadians, but it’s complicated” a top headline on the Toronto Star website blazed. The sub-heading read: “We asked 10 Canadian citizens about when they have embraced their Canadian identity and when they have been embarrassed by it.”
In other words, they cornered people from different races and religions and pushed them to drum up something negative to say about Canada.
Then there was the Star oped column “Why I will celebrate Canada Day.” It was supposed to be an edgy, contrarian headline — as if enjoying July 1 is something deviant that warrants explanation.
Then there’s the Ryerson Student Union that, as my colleague Sue-Ann Levy detailed, told the student body to consider not celebrating Canada Day because, while it may “seem like a holiday,” our founding is actually a “genocide” and “colonization.”
You could find stories like this all over the press and social media — surreal complaints about how the most tolerant country on Earth is somehow some raging oppressor.
It would be one thing if this sentiment was coming solely from fringe voices and social media misfits. But it was a tone endorsed from the top on down.
After First Nations protesters erected a teepee on Parliament Hill, they held a mean-spirited press conference where they took disrespectful and racist shots at a CBC reporter that would not have been tolerated from any other group.
Instead of denouncing this needless nastiness, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau granted the protesters a private audience. He then called on all Canadians to respect those who don’t celebrate Canada 150.
He could have pointed out that these protesters are fringe voices and, in fact, there are many thousands of empowered First Nations entrepreneurs out there making their communities and our whole country more prosperous by their ingenuity.
Instead he played into their divisions, joining them in frowning on our history: “We recognize that over the past decades, generations, indeed centuries Canada has failed Indigenous peoples.”
His divisive top advisor Gerald Butts even tweeted out the activist hashtag “reoccupation.” It should not be too much to ask that our own PM and his team stand up for a unified Canada on our 150th birthday.
— Gerald Butts ð¨ð¦ (@gmbutts) June 30, 2017
While this is the agenda furthered through much of the media and in political narratives, it wasn’t what regular Canadians celebrated.
My family attended celebrations in lovely East York, a borough of Toronto. It has a small-town vibe but is in the middle of the city. The modest parade was fantastic. Canadians of all demographics enjoyed the police motorcycles who commenced the parade with their precision driving in formation, and we didn’t even have to worry about Black Lives Matter dividing us in the process.
While politicians of all stripes marched, the more endearing sight was the volunteer community associations and ethnic groups in the parade — all of whom waved the flag with pride. Then we all went to the park and had lunch, listened to live music and our kids played together.
The group of Canadians I celebrated with knew that our similarities matter more than our differences. It’s a real shame that those at the top setting the agenda never clued into this basic fact.