Canada Day is coming up and it will be a July 1 like no other. Many people will be waving their flags at half mast, if at all, and others will be confused not sure what to do knowing that with the discovery of the remains of 215 children from one school in Kamloops, B.C. alone, our history is tragically and brutally flawed. Waving a flag now will be difficult, if not impossible, unless we make a commitment to right action in reconciliation during the immediate years ahead.

If we have learned anything in this past month, it is that this country has a long road ahead before we are indeed true North, strong and free. We are not free. And there are thousands among us who are not strong but broken because of our colonial past. We see them on the streets of Yellowknife every day.

We know that for us to move forward as a nation, we must investigate the grounds of every residential school in Canada ensuring that the remains of all of the young Indigenous people found there are properly buried. We know that our history books have to be rewritten to reflect the reality of what our first people endured and what was taken from them often without consent and with little awareness of what they were being asked to sacrifice. We know they were forced to sign documents they could not read or understand and our forefathers did not explain.

We know that reconciliation is not just about receiving apologies, but seeing justice done because it is only when there is justice that true healing can begin.

It would be a special kind of miracle to have an apology from the Vatican but we know that will not come. The church cannot afford that and surely has been so advised by its legal department. But to their credit we are seeing more apologies from Catholic church officials in Canada. Apologies from the federal government and other churches involved in the schools has helped and those apologies must come again and again and again. Healing is not a one-time event.

I am sure there are many who would like to see the perpetrators brought to justice which would a deeper level of healing. But we are not expecting that – not yet. But we will hold out for records and files. We can hold out for names. We will hold out for accountability. And we will stand by their side when the indigenous peoples who allowed us to live here call for their truth to be heard. And now, more than ever, we want to hear it. That is what will make us great as a nation and as a people – listening when we are asked to listen and acknowledging their truth. We cannot discount their stories or our history anymore.

That is what will make us great as a nation.

Healing is not just about compensation. Healing is about acknowledgment. It is about saying, I hear you and not turning away anymore. It is saying, I believe you. It is saying, I respect your stories and I honour who you are. It is standing by their sides as brothers and sisters knowing that on some level, we are one and truly, in our hearts, want to be that.

This July 1 will be unlike any Canada Day we have ever experienced and it has to be if this country wants to hold its head high. This year, while we celebrate our national holiday, let’s listen to the stories our first nations brethren tells us and demonstrate the level of respect they deserve. On Canada Day this year, if we want to wave our flag proudly, how about if we say thank you at the same time we sing – and mean it.

Thank you for letting us live here.

Thank you for helping our ancestors settle in when the winters were so cold.

Thank you for helping them to find food and build shelter in environments they did not know. And thank you for helping Canada in both world wars when you received so little in return.

On this Canada Day, how about if we start out saying thank you and agree to move forward together. We failed to do it then, but we can make a commitment to do that now.

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