A young new Canadian holds a flag as she takes part in a citizenship ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 17, 2019. It will be a muted Canada Day in many parts of the country as grief and anger over the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential schools has made it hard for many Canadians to stomach the usual patriotic pomp of July 1. Rather than fireworks, parades and performances, several municipalities say they will mark the national holiday with reflection and solidarity, but Indigenous leaders, advocates and scholars say that's just the start of broad efforts needed to reframe Canada Day as a reminder of the country's dark past and present, and what it means to be Canadian. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

LETTER: On Canada day, a look back without guilt and shame

‘Let’s all look inwardly as we celebrate outwardly’

As I reflect on Canada Day, and realize what an amazing country it is, I also must, with integrity, reflect on the unpleasant portions of our history. Canada, like most nations, has a history both proud, and sadly, sometime shameful.

Having said that, I do not believe in carrying the guilt and shame created by those before me. The sins of the father need not reflect on the next generation. We must move forward, understanding that it now time to heal, repair and amend the wrongs of those before us, but yet somehow put those wrongs into the rearview mirror.

Glancing back from time to time in order to be reminded, yet always looking forward, with clarity of hindsight, and focusing on what’s ahead.

My grandfather fought in the trenches of France in the First World War. My father flew in the skies over Holland in the Second World War. And I served as a decorated peace officer for almost 30 years, all to preserve and protect a nation that wasn’t perfect, but was certainly better than the alternative.

The U.S. army’s 422 regiment of Japanese/American soldiers fought in Europe for a nation that took away their property and imprisoned them in relocation camps. The Tuskegee airmen, an African American squadron fought valiantly as “red tails”, only to come home to a country that marginalized them and refused them basic civil rights.

And yes, Canada too committed atrocities against our own Indigenous people.

I am a believer in the adage that history forgotten is history repeated. But I also believe that history remembered can and must be used to affect positive change.

If we use the lessons we are learning from the residential schools travesty, and with a caring, and in my case, a Christian desire to right the wrongs, recognize our responsibility to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, and move forward. Not with guilt and shame, but with determination and fortitude, then perhaps the sacrifices made by those who care so deeply about an imperfect, yet worthy cause, will never be in vain.

Let’s all look inwardly as we celebrate outwardly, the greatness and beauty of Canada. Not the perfection which can never be attained, but the desire for harmony and peace which must never be quenched.

David Townsend

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