On July 1, I encourage you to read this essay by Robert Jago, first written in 2017 for the 150th Canada Day.

Many Canadians see the collective possession and exploration of this wilderness as a right of citizenship. But the pristine landscapes seen in government promotions—and the very concept of Canada as a wilderness—are unrecognizable to me and to other Indigenous people. In addition to being the sesquicentennial, 2017 was also designated as a year for reconciliation with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. As an ongoing part of this reconciliation, the government acknowledges the traumas of the residential school system. But it still celebrates other crimes—specifically, a parks system that has robbed and impoverished Indigenous peoples.

I was one of those "many Canadians." Jago and I grew up in the same place, what I call "British Columbia." I grew up in that park system. We went hiking as a family every Sunday. I was a Girl Guide, and my brothers were Scouts. Summers were for camping and picnics and trips to the aquarium in Stanley Park.

I was proud to be a Canadian who lived so close to nature. Not untouched or pristine—I understood that much—but still alive and woven into our every day. So much of our identity as Canadians is about the land and trees and water. But none of it belongs to us. As a white settler, I have no claim, but I can strive to be a better steward. That doesn't mean protecting the land with borders and rangers and park passes.

It means land back.

A major part of reconciliation is accepting that when we celebrate Canada 200, Algonquin people may again be living in Algonquin Park, and that Stanley Park and the turquoise waters of Moraine Lake in Banff National Park may be dotted with First Nations homes and businesses. Wilderness may be a sacred concept to Canadians, but it’s one that must be sacrificed if reconciliation is to have meaning.

Canada is a Colonial Crime Scene