Morinville’s Roman Catholic Church burns Tuesday night (Photo: Twitter/Kim Smith, Global News).

ST. ALBERT, ALBERTA – It’s Canada Day.

The pickup trucks with their maple leaf flags may or may not be screeching around Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue tonight, laying rubber in celebration of the provincial government’s edict the masks must come off, Delta variant or not.

The Youville Residential School in St. Albert in 1912 (Photo: Arts and Heritage Foundation of St. Albert).

But while Premier Jason Kenney insists the summer of 2021 is going to be the best one Alberta’s ever seen, with a Calgary Stampede and everything, it’s hard to shake the feeling of apocalyptic foreboding in the air this Canada Day.

As we gingerly emerge from a year of on-again, off-again COVID-19 restrictions and more than 26,000 deaths across Canada, with a chorus of deranged COVID deniers screeching at every turn that the malls must reopen or freedom will perish from the earth, this just feels like one more bad bet by the United Conservative Party.

The air’s hot enough for it to be Texas, hovering just under 40 degrees Celsius most days this week. But by mid-afternoon it feels like Fahrenheit 451. 

It can take you an hour to get an ambulance in Edmonton whether it’s COVID, heat-stroke or something else that’s ailing you. While you wait, you can consider the pleas to take it easy on the power grid because it may not be able to hold up under the strain. 

Yet the same hysterical voices that insist COVID vaccines are a billionaires’ plot to put microchips in our bloodstreams are assembling in cyberspace to yell at us that global climate change is a fraud ginned by Justin Trudeau and a shadowy new world order to make us submit to wearing paper masks.

They’d be in the streets, too, except it’s too hot for them as well.

Medical facilities keep getting anonymous letters ordering them to cease and desist practicing medicine, or else.

In the midst of this, unidentified men in Alberta have been attacking Muslim women because of the way they dress and, often, the colour of their skin. This happened last week right here in St. Albert. The Mounties say they’re having trouble finding the culprit.

Worst of all, what we were told over and over, most recently by the witnesses to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is revealed to be the horrifying, undeniable truth as the unmarked graves of little Indigenous children – more than a thousand in just the past few days – are revealed at the sites of former “residential schools” across Canada.

There are many more to come.

But for some reason the COVID and climate change deniers, self-described “conservatives” all, who see a conspiracy to thwart something they want at every turn, have trouble accepting that this horror was the result of a conscious, thought-out national policy.

Suggest using this Canada Day as a moment to solemnly reflect on the horror of the residential schools system, the reality of our colonial institutions, or the global predicament of climate change, and they’ll say they don’t want their culture cancelled. 

And it’s not just the mob. It’s the conservative movement’s leaders.

The leader of Canada’s Parliamentary Opposition – a party closely tied to Mr. Kenney’s government – says he wants to “take back Canada.” From whom is never mentioned explicitly, but if you listen carefully, you can hear the dog whistle well enough.

“I can’t stay silent when people want to cancel Canada Day,” Erin O’Toole told his party faithful last week, never mind that Canada Day, like Christmas, is in no danger. 

He just doesn’t want to talk about the bad stuff – on Canada Day or any other day – unless there’s a way to turn it into an attack on Mr. Trudeau or demean “woke” liberals.

But cancelling Canada Day fireworks – as St. Albert’s City Council bravely did on the reasonable grounds it would be disrespectful and inappropriate to launch them from the site of the demolished St. Albert Residential School, which may well have its own collection of unmarked graves – is not the same as cancelling Canada. Quite the contrary, in fact. 

The night before last, a Roman Catholic Church burned down in Morinville, the next town to the north of St. Albert. The investigation has barely begun before Mr. Kenney was on the smouldering doorstep with his video crew to declare the fire “a criminal act of hate-inspired violence.”

If ever there was a moment in Canada’s history when sober reflection, empathy and reconciliation would seem like the appropriate course of action, this Canada Day is it.

But Mr. Kenney doesn’t do sober reflection. He does incendiary division. 

Canada may someday get to a better place because of what we do and say this summer, through generosity of spirit, a willingness to acknowledge our national sins, and our international responsibilities.

But I’m pretty sure that no matter what happens, we’re not going to look back on this as the best Alberta summer ever.

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  1. Lytton, the BC village that became famous last week for setting Canada’s hottest ever temperature three days in a row, has been evacuated because of a fire. With our hot temperatures, and strong drying winds, Alberta’s forest fire risk is also reaching extreme levels.

    Perhaps my level of distrust with our provincial government has reached a paranoia level, but I am wondering why we haven’t heard anything about campfire bans in provincial parks, and bans on ATV use on crown lands. Sadly, I can’t get past the suspicion that Kenney & Nixon’s drive for the ‘best summer ever’ is influencing that decision.

  2. If not the best, then surely the hottest. I can’t imagine racing chuckwagons during the heat we will be having. Pity the horses if that happens.

    And who will want to sit in the hot sun and watch the other rodeo events?

  3. Them chickens is coming home to roost.

    Conservatives of every variety, every type, every party affiliation, whether ideologically fixated or just casually acquainted from those who’ve been stalwart supporters for decades to those just signed up yesterday; they all have this idea that if we just did more of the same, that if we just went back to some more benign and halcyon time, that if we just acted with the great fortitude and self-respect of our forebears, then all these problems would be resolved.

    This is wrong. This is fantasy.

    Conservatives have nothing to offer by way of solutions. In fact, conservatives are becoming, perhaps have even now become the problem. Their intransigence, their blind obedience to dogma, their fear and cowardice all make them obstacles in the search for a continuing way of life in this 21st Century.

    Not that there are any easy or obvious solutions available to those courageous, open-minded and with wide-open-eyes. As with every cultural artifact the solution that works for an individual often comes at the expense of the many. I suspect a great cosmic and epochal irony is at play here; I suspect that the way forward is to be found through our Indigenous Peoples traditional and historic ways of living even as our dominant white north-European culture continues to subsume and erase theirs.

    Whatever successes the first settlers had on this continent was because of the kindness and generosity, indeed, the raw humanity of the Indigenous Peoples living here at the time. That was profoundly true and well understood for the first few generations of settlers. Until the establishment of stable white communities that the psychopaths, the dilettantes and the ne’er-do-wells of the nascent conservative movement could settle into. They have brought nothing but misery and impoverishment to the many while they filled their gluttonous pockets.

    After 2 or 3 hundred years of white culture spreading and shitting all over this Earth we are coming to the realisation that this can’t go on. On this Canada Day I am writing this while listening to those most Canadian Bear Naked Ladies singing “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”. Most appropriate; it is a dangerous time. Even if the danger is pregnant, not really fully present yet, we are on that path.
    It is no time to celebrate past glories. This is no time to love the past atrocities committed in our name.

    No one can say it better than our host, so I leave the last word to David; “Canada may someday get to a better place because of what we do and say this summer, through generosity of spirit, a willingness to acknowledge our national sins, and our international responsibilities.”

  4. Judging from the Sky Palace drinking session, would it be unreasonable to suggest that “sober” is not a word in Monsieur Kenney’s well-thumbed thesaurus?

    God forbid that his Catholic church finally face the music! Just last year, he was blathering on about the Great Northern Dominion and Sir John A. MacDonald. He called July 1 ” Dominion Day” , and explained “Dominion”, i.e. colonialism, under the United Kingdom.

    Might be a plan to stop putting the founders of Indian Residential Schools and their bronzes up on pedestals. Might be a plan to acknowledge the suffering of little children. No rose-colored glasses for me. Today is orange: orange clothing, orange flowers in the yard, orange on the menu, too.

    We cannot move forward without facing our history and addressing the grave crimes of our nation’s past. People and churches lied. Children died. This is this summer of our reckoning. Canada is literally and figuratively on fire. Meanwhile, our premier pushes forward with his revisionist-denialist school curriculum, and calls a burning Catholic church a hate crime. What does he call the forcible confinement and deaths of thousands of children? That’s called “school”.

    “Never again!”

  5. “…the same hysterical voices that insist COVID vaccines are a billionaires’ plot to put microchips in our bloodstream…” may be onto something. They fear that this is an attempt to change their behaviour to fit the whims of a new world order. These fears may be legitimate – subconsciously, they are aware that the old colonial world order launched a national campaign to change the behaviour of Canada’s Indigenous people’s that resulted in terrible atrocities and genocide.
    Perhaps, instead of the best summer ever, we will witness the worst summer of our discontent.

  6. Premier Crying & Screaming Midget’s attempt to calm tensions surely ramped them up. Of course, Kenney begins by declaring hate crimes are not the path to Reconciliation, which would have worked had he not doubled down and implied that if the arson attacks on Catholic Churches do not stop, there will be no Reconciliation. It’s just like Kenney to deal with a crisis by throwing Molotov Cocktails at it.

    Since Kenney’s favourite historian, Christian Champion, of Dorchester Research, has taken to Twitter to troll delightful “evidence” of FNs children playing happily in opulent playgrounds at the Residential Schools. “Does this look like genocide?” the Tweet declares. Conveniently, photographs of Jews interned at Nazi concentration camps being entertained by string quartets as they made their way to the “delousing showers” popped up in response. “Does this look like genocide, too?” and the Tweet war was on.

    Considering that the Vatican has been resistant to apologise, let alone denounce, their own actions over the generations, as well as the harm caused to millions, maybe losing a few of their churches will give them pause to reconsider.

  7. I look forward to Jason Kenney’s condemnation of his favourite Mother country England over the fêted annual Auto-da-fé of Catholics in effigy on Guy Fawkes day.

  8. The UCP have things all backwards and messed up. Best summer ever? I don’t think so. The hate is also being fueled by the UCP types. These churches that are being burned down, and the wildfire in British Columbia are being blamed on the Indigenous people. There are people who are making that assumption. In Alberta, wait until the Covid-19 cases escalate, with the Delta variant. The UCP’s smugness and arrogance might take them down.

  9. Last summer was the Summer of Discontent in the US, perhaps this year is Canada’s turn. Whatever happens, I don’t think it will be the “Best Summer Ever”. An experienced politician like Kenney should know not to continue to over promise and under deliver, but he seems not to be able to help himself. At this point he is flailing, looking for anything to to grab on, to save his political career, I suspect anything to prevent his party from having a leadership review.

    Kenney does somewhat better with the photo ops he or his staff set up, rather than unwitting ones like cocktails on the Sky Palace deck , so this quick trip to Morinville. Of course, truth is never a big part of his communications, so he is jumping to conclusions about what happened even though the Catholic Church itself is asking people not to. Of course, those conclusions also neatly fit his political agenda, the culture war battles he wants to fight and lets him play the martyr. Old wooden buildings have been known to burn down for a various reasons, but why wait for an investigation and the facts to come out, when political points might be quickly scored while the ruins are still smouldering and the TV cameras are already there.

    The Morinville photo op sort of reminds me of Kenney’s quick trip out to Edmonton International Airport, early in the COVID crisis. One of the problems with Kenney and the UCP gang, is they seem so obsessed with the various day to day petty battles, they have lost sight of the bigger picture.

  10. It will be a great summer for me if I do not see Jason Kenny’s mug on the TV or if I do not even hear his voice.

    This business about apologies from the church over these home has nothing to do with guilt or conscience. It is all about
    the money. Financial liability. Just do some basic research into what faith groups have honoured their finanical committments to the reconciliation agreement. The answer is telling. It will be business as usual.

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