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On Canada Day, some are ready to celebrate while others plan to reflect

Clothing with the Canadian flag is displayed in a store.
Emily Russell/NCPR
/
Clothing with the Canadian flag is displayed in a store.

Canada Day marks the nation’s progress towards independence. For many, it’s a day to celebrate. There are fireworks, parades and parties. But in recent years, the day has taken on a more somber tone, as Canada grapples with racism and its colonial past.

On a warm summer day, Mary Deans sits on a bench in downtown Kingston, Ontario. Deans loves Canada. She plans to spend Canada Day relaxing.

I may stay home and cut my grass, fire up the barbecue, no pressure," says Deans.

The holiday is similar to July 4th in the US. Some Canadians spend the long weekend at their cottages, others flood into cities. Deans says Canada Day should just be a day to unwind.

It's a break for people that are working to have a long weekend, I think that's paramount," says Deans. "And after COVID and the restrictions that are being lifted, there's all kinds of activities, especially in Kingston.”

This year, there’s a live music around the city, community barbeques, and big fireworks finale in the evening.

Monika Patel, originally from India, is living in Kingston on a work visa.
Emily Russell
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Monika Patel, originally from India, is living in Kingston on a work visa.

Monika Patel says she’s really excited for the holiday. “It's gonna be my first celebration, first Canada Day because I came in 2019, and then after we got COVID, so there was no celebrations," says Patel.

Patel is originally from India and is in Canada on a work visa. She says she loves living in Kingston.

“It’s wonderful," says Patel, grinning. "It’s peaceful, less people. And people from all over the world, so it’s nice.”

Mike Chen, who is originally from Taiwan, also likes how diverse Canada is, but Chen feels like the symbol of Canada, its red and white maple leaf flag, has taken on a new meaning in recent years.

Mike Chen immigrated to Canada from Taiwan and is now a Canadian citizen.
Emily Russell
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Mike Chen immigrated to Canada from Taiwan and is now a Canadian citizen.

“It's been very much hijacked by the white supremacists [and] other anti-democratic movements that I feel like has been deeply opposing to the idea of Canada that a lot of us like to enjoy, including myself, who is an immigrant, who's very grateful for becoming a citizen of this country.”

Earlier this year, a convoy of truckers protesting COVID-19 restrictions flew large Canadian flags from their vehicles. One of the leaders of that movement was an outspoken supporter of white supremacy and a number of protesters carried confederate flags.

Chen says he plans to spend Canada Day reflecting on the complexity of this nation.

Maybe it would be a good time to do some personal reading to understand colonialism, racism in general, and recognize that, of course, that’s highly intersectional," says Chen.

In recent years, Canada has grappled with a string of anti-Muslim attacks. It’s also discovered hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential schools for Native children.

Just days before Canada Day last year, Prime minister Justin Trudeau apologized to Indigenous communities for what he described as the nation’s "incredibly harmful" policies.

We have so many things we need to work on together and I think this Canada Day, it will be a time of reflection on what we’ve achieved as a country but on what more we have to do," said Trudeau.

Caitlin Parks says that same sentiment is being talked about for this Canada Day, treating it more as a day of reflection. Parks is from Kingston.

“I definitely agree, it's not a day that should necessarily be celebrated," says Parks.

Most of her family is headed to their cottage for the holiday. She's staying in the city on Canada Day. “I work during the day and then I don't know probably just watch TV or something.

For Parks, Canada Day gives her a chance to earn time and a half at work.

For many Canadians, they'll continue celebrating the nation's independence on July 1. Others are now using the day to reflect on the work many say still needs to be done to promote freedom and protect Democracy in Canada.