Why silencing indigenous voices on Canada Day is unacceptable
This article by Solidarity Halifax Member Brian Crouse and Alexandra Killham originally appeared in the July 9, 2015 edition of The Coast.
Last week, the Coast published an article by Michael Wood, entitled “Why I celebrate Canada Day with all my heart.” This article was in response to Killa Atencio’s article, “Why I choose not to celebrate Canada Day.”
The Coast offers Halifax great event listings, horoscopes and sometimes supports important investigative journalism. But there is power in having access to thousands of readers and the ability to lift voices. Publishing Atencio’s article opened up space for people to share anger, to question Canada Day and to challenge the uncritical celebration of Canada’s history. It also showed that the Coast is a forum in which this is possible. The choice to follow up with Wood’s article, as a response, closes that space off just as quickly.
The Coast presented two articles implying that both perspectives were equal and valid. Just because there are “two sides to a story,” however, doesn’t mean that both sides need to be published. Or that they are even based in truth. An indigenous woman wrote an article challenging common perceptions of Canada Day and nationalism. She educated readers on some of the reasons that this national holiday conceals colonial violence and sidelines indigenous experience. This truth is not one that is taught in history books, featured on a Canada Day parade float, or shown on TV on July 1.
Within the dominant stories of Canada Day, Wood’s perspective is one that we hear too often. It is constantly validated and upheld. It was really important for The Coast to publish Atencio’s article—but following it with Wood’s perspective works to silence indigenous experience.
This is not an issue of freedom of speech. There is a difference between “freedom of speech” and choosing to publish an article. The right to freedom of speech simply means that you can’t be arrested for your opinions. Just because Woods has an opinion (albeit one clouded with privilege) doesn’t mean that the Coast needed to publish it.
Journalism isn’t neutral. The choices of which authors to publish, which stories to feature and which voices are heard are always political choices. Choosing to show “two sides of a story” ignores the fact that one side often has more power.
What does Canada Day look like when we actively acknowledge and honour that Canada isn’t something that everyone celebrates? Colonialism is an ongoing process, and for many, this is a lived experience, not a lesson in a history book. By publishing articles that tell these stories, we create space for conversations that challenge false and simplistic ideas of Canada. Like all media sources, the Coast’s choices in which articles to publish give it a role in the ongoing struggle for justice – whether they acknowledge it or not.
Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.
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