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Canada 150: A Bitter Slice of Watermelon to Swallow

By Marlee Vinegar


There's just one month until Canada celebrates its 150th. For me that conjures up images of lake-side cottages, barbecues, fireworks, and watermelon. For many across the country, the sesquicentennial is not quite as sweet. For some, it represents another erasure of First Nations' histories. For others, Canada 150 marks 150 years of colonization, complete with stolen land, broken treaties, residential schools, destruction of culture, tearing apart of families, and other atrocities. The city of Vancouver will be celebrating Canada 150+ with the aims to:

Vancouver island -  Acknowledge the Indigenous peoples who have been here since time immemorial

- Represent that there is history in this land that predates colonization

- Represent that Vancouver’s Canada 150+ experience is also about looking to the future, and all communities, Nations and peoples walking together as a stronger society than ever before

- Set the mark for what we hope to achieve in all cities and communities across Canada

- Present Vancouver with the opportunity to be its best, as a City of Reconciliation that reflects and recognizes Indigenous peoples and cultures (1).

The year-long series of events “signifies only the first step in Canada’s generations-long journey towards truth and reconciliation,” (1).

When it comes to reconciliation, I’ll own up to being too ignorant and ambivalent for too long. It's taken me a long time to come to grips with reconciliation as something that I needed to be involved with. I’m working on dissecting which aspects of my own (settler) identity and history enable parts of my brain to think 'this isn't my history, these weren't my transgressions,' and 'this isn't my problem' and 'I have no role in the solution.' 

There are also other parts of my brain that pipe-up with 'your history has allowed you to benefit while others continue to deal with inter-generational trauma and real human rights violations!' and 'you're part of the problem that continues to exist today!!' and ' what are you doing to become part of the solution?!!??!!' 

I proudly identify as a Canadian—because let’s face it, I don’t identify with the Eastern European countries that my great-grandparents called home—and with that I inherit all of Canada's history and become responsible for its future. Coming together to make a better future for everyone is part of what reconciliation is about, right (not necessarily a hypothetical question, I’m on a learning curve!)? As a public health professional driven by a strong belief in the need for health equity, I need to identify how I can support and promote health equity for Aboriginal peoples, including how I can better integrate an intersectional lens into whatever work I do. Knowing that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I sincerely hope that if I falter there will be people to help me course correct.

So, what does Canada 150 and reconciliation mean to you? Between the bites of burgers and slices of watermelon you enjoy while camping for free in Canada’s national parks, I implore you to find out.


1.        City of Vancouver, Government of Canada. About | Canada 150+ [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2017 Jun 1]. Available from:

Marlee Vinegar is a moose, maple syrup, and timmies lover, a wearer of many metaphorical hats—though very few actual hats— and probably eats more watermelon than you.

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