As immigrants came to Canada for a new life, Indigenous people faced trauma from centuries of genocide. We must speak up

July 1, 1923. It’s not Canada Day. It’s Humiliation Day. It’s the day the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed into law in Canada, barring immigrants of Chinese descent into Canada until 1946.July 1, 2021. It’s not Canada Day. It’s a day of mourning, reflection and reckoning. #CancelCanadaDay has been trending in the month leading up to this day ever since the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves were found on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Since additional remains previously unaccounted for, the latest horrific number of 751 unmarked graves was announced as being found in Saskatchewan. Instead of celebrating Canada Day, we must reckon with these crimes against humanity at the hands of the Canadian government and churches that ran residential schools and recognize this continues today, in our child welfare system, the incarceration rates of Indigenous people in Canada, the opioid crisis, and all the many institutions of colonial harm including the education, health care and justice systems.For racialized Canadians, we too must reckon with the genocidal and colonial practices of this country. As racialized settlers, we are complicit in benefiting from settler-colonialism in Canada while many of us have familial or ancestral histories of being harmed by colonialism and/or imperialism in our home countries. This is not only the responsibility of white settlers, but as racialized immigrants, we must also do our part to make amends, and work through our complicity to stand up and call for justice and accountability for Indigenous communities.I’ve had conversations with immigrants insisting that Canada is “still much better” than the country they were forced to leave, often under duress. This is especially true for racialized people who came to Canada as refugees, escaping war-torn countries or countries with their own violent history of persecution or unrest. Without invalidating the genuine concerns and fears that diasporas in Canada may have for their homelands, these comparisons are unhelpful in facing the reality of violence against Indigenous and Black people on this land. Racialized immigrants can and should be concerned about injustices in Canada as much as injustices in their countries of origin.My own parents left Hong Kong for Canada in the 70s, fearing loss of democratic freedoms as China prepared for its handover of Hong Kong in 1997 from British colonial rule. It was difficult and courageous for each of them to pick up and move on their own independently as 20-something year-olds without established professions, careers or support networks waiting for them in Canada. These fears are still very real to this day with the closure of the largest pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong just this month, and as we hit the two-year anniversary of the 2019 Hong Kong protests.This month, I realized with such shame that while I vividly remember being horrified by the Tiananmen Square Massacre in June 1989, thinking how happy I was that my parents had immigrated from Hong Kong to escape, Canada has been complicit in harming Indigenous people. I know intimately how immigrants and descendants of racialized immigrants can feel a great sense of loyalty, duty and gratitude to Canada. That some use this gratitude to shield us from understanding why the atrocities towards Indigenous communities in Canada end up ignored, as if it is not our business. It is our business. Canada prospered to be able to welcome immigrants as a haven for others across the globe off the land and resources stolen from the Indigenous people and the labour of Black slaves. We immigrated and settled on stolen land. We too benefit daily from settler-colonialism and while we may not have white privilege we also have been afforded privileges in systems built by white supremacy.Many communities, especially East Asians and South Asians, bought into the “model minority” myth that we just had to be “hard-working” and “quiet” to succeed and belong in Canada. This included trying to assimilate by denying ourselves pride in our own ancestry, culture and identities. This only serves to silence us, dismisses our lived experiences and pits us against the people whose land we’ve settled on. We need to work together to fight against the white supremacy, genocide and racism in Canada’s systems. By attempting to assimilate, we traumatize Indigenous people and Black Canadians, and ourselves. There may be a sense of disloyalty in having to see Canada for what it truly is. But wouldn’t we be more disloyal if we didn’t urge our country to improve for future generations? We can love Canada, while still seeing the truth and wanting it to be better. Don’t let guilt or shame prevent you from speaking up and working towards Truth and Reconciliation for the Indigenous people in Canada. Don’t let your own experiences of racism prevent you from working through the nuances and complexity of how entangled the racialized immigrant settler identity is with

As immigrants came to Canada for a new life, Indigenous people faced trauma from centuries of genocide. We must speak up

July 1, 1923. It’s not Canada Day. It’s Humiliation Day. It’s the day the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed into law in Canada, barring immigrants of Chinese descent into Canada until 1946.

July 1, 2021. It’s not Canada Day. It’s a day of mourning, reflection and reckoning. #CancelCanadaDay has been trending in the month leading up to this day ever since the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves were found on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Since additional remains previously unaccounted for, the latest horrific number of 751 unmarked graves was announced as being found in Saskatchewan.

Instead of celebrating Canada Day, we must reckon with these crimes against humanity at the hands of the Canadian government and churches that ran residential schools and recognize this continues today, in our child welfare system, the incarceration rates of Indigenous people in Canada, the opioid crisis, and all the many institutions of colonial harm including the education, health care and justice systems.

For racialized Canadians, we too must reckon with the genocidal and colonial practices of this country. As racialized settlers, we are complicit in benefiting from settler-colonialism in Canada while many of us have familial or ancestral histories of being harmed by colonialism and/or imperialism in our home countries. This is not only the responsibility of white settlers, but as racialized immigrants, we must also do our part to make amends, and work through our complicity to stand up and call for justice and accountability for Indigenous communities.

I’ve had conversations with immigrants insisting that Canada is “still much better” than the country they were forced to leave, often under duress. This is especially true for racialized people who came to Canada as refugees, escaping war-torn countries or countries with their own violent history of persecution or unrest. Without invalidating the genuine concerns and fears that diasporas in Canada may have for their homelands, these comparisons are unhelpful in facing the reality of violence against Indigenous and Black people on this land. Racialized immigrants can and should be concerned about injustices in Canada as much as injustices in their countries of origin.

My own parents left Hong Kong for Canada in the 70s, fearing loss of democratic freedoms as China prepared for its handover of Hong Kong in 1997 from British colonial rule. It was difficult and courageous for each of them to pick up and move on their own independently as 20-something year-olds without established professions, careers or support networks waiting for them in Canada. These fears are still very real to this day with the closure of the largest pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong just this month, and as we hit the two-year anniversary of the 2019 Hong Kong protests.

This month, I realized with such shame that while I vividly remember being horrified by the Tiananmen Square Massacre in June 1989, thinking how happy I was that my parents had immigrated from Hong Kong to escape, Canada has been complicit in harming Indigenous people.

I know intimately how immigrants and descendants of racialized immigrants can feel a great sense of loyalty, duty and gratitude to Canada. That some use this gratitude to shield us from understanding why the atrocities towards Indigenous communities in Canada end up ignored, as if it is not our business. It is our business. Canada prospered to be able to welcome immigrants as a haven for others across the globe off the land and resources stolen from the Indigenous people and the labour of Black slaves. We immigrated and settled on stolen land. We too benefit daily from settler-colonialism and while we may not have white privilege we also have been afforded privileges in systems built by white supremacy.

Many communities, especially East Asians and South Asians, bought into the “model minority” myth that we just had to be “hard-working” and “quiet” to succeed and belong in Canada. This included trying to assimilate by denying ourselves pride in our own ancestry, culture and identities. This only serves to silence us, dismisses our lived experiences and pits us against the people whose land we’ve settled on. We need to work together to fight against the white supremacy, genocide and racism in Canada’s systems. By attempting to assimilate, we traumatize Indigenous people and Black Canadians, and ourselves.

There may be a sense of disloyalty in having to see Canada for what it truly is. But wouldn’t we be more disloyal if we didn’t urge our country to improve for future generations? We can love Canada, while still seeing the truth and wanting it to be better. Don’t let guilt or shame prevent you from speaking up and working towards Truth and Reconciliation for the Indigenous people in Canada. Don’t let your own experiences of racism prevent you from working through the nuances and complexity of how entangled the racialized immigrant settler identity is with being both victim of racism and oppression through settler-colonialism. Let’s channel that pain, anger, shame to learn the truth of the country that you or your ancestors came to for a better life by working to ensure that everyone is afforded that same opportunity.

Black, Indigenous, and other racialized people in Canada are inextricably linked by our shared history of harm at the hands of colonialism and imperialism throughout the world. Our liberation in Canada is intertwined. Let’s use this July 1 to reflect on the true and complex nature of our relationship with Canada as racialized settlers.

Let’s work in solidarity with one another to fight white supremacy and colonialism as the common goal. Only then, will we all be able to say that Canada is the country we thought it was.

Dr. Amy Tan is a palliative and family care physician. Follow her @AmyTanMD