This first-person work is by Bhoomika Dongol, who lives in Regina and has worked in the non-profit sector for more than nine years.

For more information about CBC’s first-person story, see common problem.

Like many other newcomers, I participated in the massive hysterical celebration of Canada’s birthday on July 1, 2018. I must admit that when I waved the rectangular red flag and witnessed the celestial fireworks, I was immersed in the glory of arriving in this land of Canada.

Three years ago, I did not know how intense these celebrations were. I gradually began to understand why Canada Day needs to be a day of reconciliation, not a day of celebration.

I work hard every day to educate myself, forget and re-learn, in order to reshape my understanding of Canada. Books and articles by indigenous writers are readily available and can teach many non-indigenous people like me about decolonization, reconciliation, and the indelible past and present of Turtle Island, a land scraped by the claws of colonization.

As immigrants, we all have our own unique stories about why we uprooted ourselves from the motherland and transferred ourselves to the utopian destinations that we imagined in our subconscious mind. Our fantasy of utopia may be just to escape boredom, but we prefer to believe that the grass on the other side is greener.

In the past three years of familiarizing with the grassland landscape, I have also realized how I live on the land where the settlers have been displaced and are still replacing our indigenous people-as long as the sun is shining, the grass grows, and the river flows. On most days, this feels like a wrong comedy. I moved myself away from a lush land, but immersed myself in the pain of another land.

It is interesting how we deceive ourselves into thinking that we “own” the land. -Bomika Dongor

I began to know that to live on a piece of land is to absorb its sorrow and make atonement for its irreparable past. I felt an intolerable heaviness, and the emotional baggage of homesickness was dragged down by the imminent guilt of living on the stolen land. The grief of losing this piece of land I call “home” for 35 years, coupled with the indelible sense of atonement, made me question the concept of home as a material residence.

The concept of a house is usually built around property and land ownership. It is interesting how we deceive ourselves into thinking that we “own” the land.

As an immigrant, the concept of home often discourages me. I don’t yet have an answer about what home is—or where it is.

All I know is that when I celebrated Canada Day three years ago, I wore orange instead of the traditional red. The orange vest I brought from Nepal was the closest to the red vest I could find in the first naive celebration on July 1st. Somehow, part of me, without knowing it, decided to wear orange. Orange represents all the feathers that fall. Orange is for all the children who can’t find their way home.

On July 1st of this year, I will consciously and deliberately wear orange. I know that wearing an orange shirt will not eliminate the harm caused by my naive impulse to celebrate three years ago. What I continue to do regularly is to donate and support local charities that work directly with indigenous people. Most importantly, I read and promote the books of indigenous authors. Their work resonates deeply with me.

I will wear orange symbolically for this. This is my fourth year in Canada. On Turtle Island, I hope to have a fair understanding of what Canada Day is and what it is not.

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