You may know it as Heritage Day, Natal Day, Simcoe Day, Civic Holiday or something else, depending where you live. This week, The Globe and Mail invites readers and writers to consider a truly national name for the August holiday Monday.
You can share your own ideas for X Day. On the long weekend, we’ll have a look at some of the ones you’ve chosen, plus an essay by Warren Clements on what’s in a holiday name – the people, the controversies and what really resonates.
Geez, the August holiday Monday already has so many names: B.C. Day, Saskatchewan Day, Simcoe Day, Heritage Day, plus the one I’ve always been familiar with, the Civic Holiday.
They sound so exclusionary – only those from Saskatchewan or British Columbia, those with a noticeable heritage, those familiar with the first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, and those who are legal citizens may celebrate or get the day off? What if you’re an illegal alien of no definable culture hiding out in Flin Flon, Man., and more of a fan of Peter Russell, who came after John Graves Simcoe? I’ve heard they’re a small but potentially radical bunch.
And now we want to add a new name to the mix. It makes me think back a decade or so ago, when Ontario’s premier decided to rename a bunch of highways and cities. I guess the various levels of government didn’t have enough to do. Maybe this should be a “make work” project for bureaucrats.
At first, being the loyal Anishnawbe writer that I am, I thought Manoominike-giizis might be an appropriate name. On the Ojibway calendar, it falls on the moon of ricing. As in wild rice. What else are you gonna do on a three-day weekend?
But not everybody might be into getting into a canoe and paddling through hundreds of lakes hunting for wild rice, which incidentally is not actually rice. It’s a type of grain. But then again, Indians weren’t actually from India … unless they were actual Indians. Then never mind. It gets kind of complicated.
Plus, the First Nations people of Canada already have a holiday, on June 21. Only native people take it off. I keep telling all my white friends to take it off, too, but most of them feel that if they participate, it would be a form of cultural appropriation. C’est la vie. We are grateful, though: It’s the longest day of the year. More hours of sunshine to attend the Truth and Reconciliation hearings, and less hours of darkness to swat mosquitoes.
So, what to call that long weekend. Taking a random survey of all the other holidays on the calendar, you can’t help but notice most of them celebrate religious occurrences, with an occasional sprinkling of ethnic festivities. Or a combination of both. In today’s volatile world, that just sounds like recipe for disaster.
Does it really matter? By any other name, a summer holiday would still smell of sunscreen, mosquito repellent and barbecued hamburgers (tofu burgers, if you’re a vegetarian). At this particular moment in my life, I’m not quite sure what needs to be honoured on a provincial or national level …
What the heck. Call it Stephen Harper Day. I say this because very few individuals in living memory have managed to polarize Canada’s multicultural/politically various/socially fractious/notably opinionated public so effectively into primarily two opposing camps. That’s quite a feat.
Canada is all about unity and that’s a unity of sorts.
Drew Hayden Taylor is a award-winning playwright and author who lives on the Curve Lake First Nation in Central Ontario.