150 years of colonization

Editor, Evan Matthews. / LAURA KEIL

by EVAN MATTHEWS, editor

Everyone celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday this past weekend.

Everything from camping, live music, good food and drink, fireworks, etc. The list goes on. We have so many reasons to be thankful in Canada.

The Canadian Government is spending half a billion dollars on the Canada 150 festivities.

But it’s interesting, because as a nation we’re essentially celebrating 150 years since the signing of the British North America Act. It was the birth of Canada as a governed nation, though Canada didn’t gain full independence from Britain until 1982.

Yet, history shows us the First Nations people of Canada were here well before 1867, or 150 years ago. But the Canadian Government continued the colonization and mistreatment of First Nations people over the last 150 years.

The colonization of indigenous peoples and the discrimination and residential schools debacle is well-known and well-documented, but there has been little mention of Canada’s true history throughout the celebration.

This is of course excluding the columnists and protestors who have made mention of it.

However, while we as a nation collectively celebrate 150 years, there are still currently over 150 First Nations in this country under a water boil advisory.

There are still over 1,100 (and climbing) missing or murdered indigenous women in this country.

In a time most Canadians are celebrating a holiday made up by government, there are still unresolved societal issues directly tied to the true history we’re celebrating.

Truth and reconciliation has begun, and it’s worth noting good things are happening, too.

Maybe the most recent example is just west of Prince George.

B.C. Transit Busses have started two new regular service routes along Highway 16, between Burns Lake and Smithers. The other route runs between Burns Lake and Prince George.

The stretch of highway is known for its abnormally high numbers of disappearances and murders, and has become known as the Highway of Tears. First Nations’ Chiefs in the region have been calling for reliable public transportation for nearly a decade.

There is even a Vice documentary (now on Netflix) specifically about the stretch.

Though the busses will only be running three times per week, on a stretch of highway renowned for tragedy, reliable transportation is step in the right direction.

B.C. Transit — the agency responsible for public transit outside Greater Vancouver — will be running the service.

The point here isn’t that people shouldn’t have a good time, or shouldn’t enjoy the festivities happening around them, but to acknowledge the progress we still have to make.

It’s fine to celebrate the great nation we live in. But it’s equally as important to understand its history and heritage.

Truth and reconciliation with our First Nations peoples is happening.

But there is still work to be done.