Forgive me if upon the day I cannot raise the cry
I cannot sing the shining praise
Nor raise my banner high
The mother of our land is weeping
Heavy are her tears
The dead are crying in their graves
Hidden all these years
To all of us who marched away
Made war under her name
Her tears demand to know
Who stood on guard
For my first born
When you stood on guard for me?
I love our nation best of all
I am her proudest son
Yet I hear her weeping for her first born
Those we stole and threw away
You cannot raise the banner high
When it flies on unmarked graves
Her tears will keep that banner furled
Until we give justice to their name
Our nation is a promised land
A land so strong and free
Yet we built it on the broken bones
Of little children we took away
Forgive me if I cannot sing
The anthem on the day
Not when so many bones are screaming
In their unmarked graves
The day will come we raise the flag
Salute again with pride
But first we must bring justice
For all the innocents who died
Our motherland weeps on the banner
For her firstborn cast aside
Until we make it right with them
We have no right to pride
I will not be celebrating Canada Day this July 1st. I will be pouring out my offerings to the hundreds of Aboriginal Canadians ripped from their families, murdered, and thrown away in mass unmarked graves in a program that ran into the 1990’s, under the auspices of the Canadian government, the Catholic and Anglican Churches.
We made a successful attempt to kill an entire group of cultures, languages, and ways of life. We set out to destroy family structures, community structures, traditional beliefs, and we didn’t care how many Aboriginal children had to suffer or die as long as whatever remained was only capable of speaking English or French, only capable of praying to Jesus.
We didn’t care if they got sick, got beaten, got raped. We didn’t care if they simply got taken away and forgotten. The forgotten are being found as today’s technology is capable of finding the sins of the past we buried in unmarked mass graves that we like to pretend belong to Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. They are Canadian. We did this. We were doing this while most of us were alive, and the survivors of this are all around us, continuing to be treated far worse by our criminal justice system and social services.
We live in the richest society on earth, with a constitution and charter of rights and freedoms that calls upon us to fulfill the dream of a society in which all are treated equally and well, no matter their race, religion, gender, or orientation. Yet not everyone gets to be part of this dream, those who were here first, those who welcomed our ancestors to this land now have communities that are so poor and bereft of the services that all of us take for granted they look like they should be on some other continent, not a short drive down the highway. We have the harsh statistics that show being born Aboriginal is to never be treated fairly by our social safety net or criminal justice system. We have mass graves of a cultural genocide that was willing to accept actual genocide as the cost of wiping out Aboriginal culture.
I love my country, but I will not celebrate it until we have made this right. We made a promise with our constitution, with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms that whatever we may have been when we were founded, we came together to demand something better, something fair, just, and harmonious.
I won’t salute those colours again until I see us live up to that broken promise, until those mass graves have seen justice done, when the survivors who have had their culture, their family and community structure stolen away have received our aid in rebuilding.
When the motherland no longer weeps for her first born children lying forgotten in unmarked graves, I will salute the colours again. Until then, the flag hangs heavy with the tears of the motherland, and the dead lie awaiting justice in the cold earth that was the only homeland we left them.