While honouring the contributions our First Nations people have made to Canadian society with a public holiday seems like a good idea, attempting to rewrite history to do so is something many Canadians would probably be hesitant to support.
Over the weekend, Canadians celebrated their British heritage by observing Victoria Day, marking the birthday of the country’s longest serving monarch. However, a group that includes some prominent Canadians wants to change the name of Victoria Day to Victoria and First People Day.
Actor and group spokesman Peter Keleghan said the new name would allow Canadians the opportunity to honour both the Crown and our First Nations people. He said the group is using social media in the attempt to spread the word of its online petition. Singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark, NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp, author Margaret Atwood, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and actor Gordon Pinsent have already signed the petition.
Canada already celebrates its aboriginal culture each year on June 21, but, unlike Victoria Day, it’s not a public holiday. The group is suggesting that by celebrating both holidays in May it would recognize the relationship between the British Crown and Canada’s indigenous people and provide an opportunity for all Canadians to participate in the diverse heritage of the country.
Not surprisingly, monarchists are not overly enthusiastic about the idea. Celebrating Queen Victoria is a significant way for them to celebrate our British heritage, the fact we’re a member of the Commonwealth and were at one time a British colony that still holds the queen as our head of state. They may view the notion of a shared holiday as a veiled attempt to downplay the role of the monarchy in our nation’s history. Saying that, they would not support any attempt to dilute their celebration by sharing with another group, while many Canadians will have the opinion that we should not have to apologize for our culture to appease or please others.
It is important for Canadians to celebrate everything that’s special about being Canadian, and that means recognizing, honouring and paying tribute to the people who arrived several thousand years before our European forefathers.
The easy solution would be to make National Aboriginal Day in June a public holiday, but that’s likely to come with some backlash from the private sector in terms of lost competitiveness. If not in June, another suggestion would be to consider a holiday in February when many feel a mid-winter holiday is important or in early August when many companies already take a civic holiday.