Life & Love

7 Ways to Celebrate Canada Day By Giving Back

This year, celebrate with an impact louder than fireworks. Step number one: learn about the *real* history of Canada

Every year on July 1, our feeds are flooded with images of fireworks, patriotic messaging, barbecues and maple leaf-themed outfits. But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep Canadians physically distanced, the usual hoopla leading up to Canada Day is much more muted this year.

The pandemic has also exacerbated structural inequalities in this country: marginalized communities, such as BIPOC, queer people, trans people and homeless people are more likely to contract—and die—from the coronavirus. Though Canada isn’t collecting race-based data about the pandemic, a CBC investigation found that communities in Ottawa that are “poorer, more racialized and home to higher numbers of recent immigrants are experiencing a COVID-19 infection rate nearly twice the city’s more well-off areas.” In the United States, Black people are dying three times more than white people of COVID-19; the stats are thought to be similar in Canada.

The social determinants for health, social and economic factors circumstances that affect health like income, race, gender identity and physical environments, also tend to favour those who are wealthy, cis, white, male and able-bodied. Those at the margins tend to face hardships when it comes to those social determinants. 

Not only are we living through a coronavirus pandemic, we’re also experiencing a shift in racial awareness. Since George Flyod was murdered by police in Minneapolis on May 26, international anti-racism and police abolitionist movements have sprung up in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. The protests have since inspired people from all walks of life to talk about, interrogate and expose anti-Blackness and systemic racism in all institutions. 

This year, in the midst of both a global and racial pandemic, celebrate Canada Day by helping marginalized communities within Canada. Here’s how. 

Learn about the *real* history of Canada 

Though this isn’t exactly giving back, educating yourself on the country’s injustices so you know why these causes are relevant is an important first step. Though Canada Day is a celebration of Canada’s birthday, many people—particularly Indigenous people—see July 1 as a celebration of colonial violence and land theft. This Canada Day, learn about the *real* history of Canada.

Read books written by BIPOC about Canadian history and current affairs like The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole and Policing Black Lives by Robin Maynard. 

Listen to podcasts that explore Canada’s history from a different perspective than you might’ve learned in school like Missing and Murdered and The Secret Life of Canada

Watch documentaries about racial injustice in Canada in the past and now like There’s Something in the Water (2019) and The Pass System (2016). 

Read this next: 9 Great Podcasts Hosted By Indigenous Women

Volunteer your time 

Though a lot of charities have suspended their volunteer programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are still looking for volunteers to help out contact-free. Canadian organizations like The Good Neighbour Project in Toronto are looking for volunteers to buy and deliver groceries to immunocompromised people. Other organizations like the South Granville Seniors Centre in British Columbia are looking for volunteers to connect with isolated senior citizens via video call. Doing a quick search for organizations in your city and inquiring if they’re accepting volunteers is a great way to start. 

Make a monetary donation 

Donating money to a local charity of your choice is a good way to support people in need—especially at this time, when so many charities are unable to provide their normal in-person services. Monetary donations to local organizations such as Friends of Ruby in Toronto (who support LGBTQ+ youth) and Sunrise Healing Lodge in Calgary (who support Indigenous people with addictions) allow their staff to buy food and materials for their services and make up for the loss of in-person meals  and other donations. Donating to larger organizations —like Black Lives Matter (which fights for the rights of all Black people), Planned Parenthood (which provides sexual-health-related services) and the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform (which advocates for the decriminalization of sex work)—that do work throughout the country is also a great way to support marginalized communities everywhere in Canada. 

Read this next: What to Know About the Controversial Canadian Assault Law Making Headlines

Help feed people in your community

Food banks distribute both pantry staples and hot meals to those who don’t have the means to buy their own—they’re an immensely important service. Check to see if your local food bank is currently accepting food donations (some have stopped accepting individual donations during the pandemic). 

You can also make a financial contribution to your local food bank or donate to organizations like FoodShare in Toronto, who donate fresh produce and other local products to people who are food insecure. According to StatsCan, food insecurity is more prevalent in recent immigrants (10.9% of recent immigrants are food insecure, compared to about 7.6% of all Canadians) and Indigenous people (22.3% of households are food insecure). 

Donate and distribute essential supplies 

Homeless people, those living in shelters or low-income Canadians often don’t have access to sanitary supplies like toothbrushes, deodorant and  soap, menstrual products and PPE, which is crucial during this pandemic. Organizations like Project Outreach GTA in the Toronto area are collecting these items and distributing them to people living in encampments. They’re also looking for volunteers to help distribute care packages that are filled with these donations. 

Read this next: We Marched For #JusticeForRegis—Here’s What To Do Next

Donate clothing 

If you’re doing some (belated) spring cleaning, consider donating your gently-used clothes to a LGBTQ+ community centre, women’s shelter or a homeless shelter. This can really help out trans people who are looking for gender affirming clothes, mothers who are looking for clothes for their children and homeless people who are looking for warm clothes. Items that are always appreciated include socks, chest binders, shoes, winter clothes (such as hats and scarves) and unused underwear. Check out organizations such as the 519 in Toronto and the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter

Write to an inmate 

People who are incarcerated may be far from their friends and family or don’t get many visitors. According to Prison Fellowship Canada, a group that connects volunteers with inmates, “writing a letter to an inmate, or becoming pen pals with one, provides a safe outlet for offenders to express thoughts, fears and hopes.” Volunteer to write with organizations like Prison Fellowship Canada and Inmate Ink

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