Red maple leaf

Why celebrate Canada Day?

There has been a lot of controversy over Twisted keeping the name “Canada Day Yacht Party” for our cruise on July 1, 2021 on the Queen of Diamonds, and I want to respond to all those who have asked us to change the name of the event, or in some cases cancel it, as well as to those who have supported this event continuing as is.  At the outset of these comments let me thank all of those who have written to us or communicated to us about their views on the matter, and thank them for their thoughtfulness of these issues and the courage to come forward.  We encourage those of you who continue to feel they want to voice their opinion to do so, and we commit to not deleting any posts or comments, so long as they are respectful and do not condone any violence.

Rarely in my 24 year career as an event promoter and producer in Vancouver have I had to make a public statement like this, and certainly none that I recall that related to socio-political issues of the time, outside of course from our years of trying to legalize dance music culture and normalize it in the eyes of decision makers.  Instead, our events have generally been about getting together, enjoying music, and dancing — an escape or release from the daily pressures of life, and therefore having nothing to do with ideological or moral issues.  But that is not to say that we are ignorant of these issues, nor should we always try to separate them from our events and our company culture.

For those that are unaware of the issue, there have been many calls for us to either change the name of our annual Canada Day event or cancel it in light of the recent horrific discovery of the remains of indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at a residential school in Kamloops.  To many our country is to blame, and therefore our national day is one that should be looked upon now as a day of mourning, not celebration.  Let me be clear that I am not abhorrent to this notion — that is, I understand the views of those who have expressed them, even though I may not agree with all of them.  It is a very Canadian concept to be able to understand an opposing viewpoint or ideology, respect it and those who have the courage to express it, and yet still disagree, all without either side of the issue having mal intent. Moreover it is enshrined in our nation’s beliefs (and our laws) of one’s right to peacefully express their views without fear of retribution by the state or others. Hence why we respect everyone’s viewpoint on this sensitive topic, and we appreciate those who hear us out too.

Let me speak very personally now, as I must share that the decision to continue with the event and with its current name came down to my choice alone, having fielded concerns and pushback from team members, partners, and DJs from the event (some of whom have now respectfully declined to participate in it).  To me, not just as a parent of three young children, but simply as a human being I was deeply saddened by the news of the findings of the graves of these innocents.  Our world is not and never has been vacant of such atrocities that all too often we become numb to.  But there was a particular pain felt by me and so many others with this news, possibly because of the geographic proximity to us having taken place in BC, or that there was no doubt that the state had a hand in the well-being and ultimate demise of these children, but certainly due to their young age and the sheer number of victims.  The news hit my family very hard, as well as so many others we know.  It has given us some sense of relief though that there was so much discussion sparked by this news around issues of the treatment of indigenous people, both in the past and the present, and it’s been a recurring topic of discussion with my children when they continue to see flags at half-mast around the city.  So to the comments that we’ve received that we are “tone deaf” to the current situation, let me be clear that Twisted and I are certainly aware of the feelings and attitudes on this issue.

For me, having been born, raised, and educated in this country, my knowledge of the brutal treatment of the indigenous peoples of this land by western European settlers, and later the state that was formed here, has continued to grow over time.  I can’t imagine there are many in this country that are not aware, at least at a basic level, of the atrocities committed in the past and mistakes that continue to this day, even as our country attempts to reconcile and repair that which can never be undone.  So while the news of the death of these residential school children was utterly shocking and deeply saddening, it was aligned with what many of us already knew was a growing list of atrocities from our country’s past.  Simply put, there hasn’t been a time in my adult life where I felt any better about the history of Canada’s treatment of indigenous people, and the terrible recent news from Kamloops was therefore not a watershed moment of understanding for me — I wasn’t suddenly “woke” by it.  Instead I’ve understood for a long time prior that this nation’s deep wound is its history with the native peoples of this land.  That said, for me it would be hypocritical to all of a sudden change the name of this event, which celebrates Canada’s national holiday, and moreover it would be disrespectful to only now acknowledge what wrong this country has done, while being in full knowledge of it while hosting “Canada Day” events in previous years.  I’m not saying that one’s opinion and understanding of an issue can’t change with time, quite the opposite. But for those that have looked into the matter and discovered that for a long time many indigenous people and other Canadians have felt “Canada Day” should not be one of celebration, so too have I continued to feel it should be.

So why celebrate Canada Day?  I, like many in this country today, am the child of immigrant parents who left their roots to try and make something of their lives in Canada.  They came here through great tribulation and expense, and with little guarantee of success, based on the notion that this country offered peace and an opportunity for one to be measured by their talent and good deeds, not simply by their race, creed, or social class.  This country, its belief system and laws, literally saved my family and the lives of so many others whom I have met over my lifetime.  Having been afforded opportunities that this country provided, I was able to build a life here that I possibly couldn’t in my ancestral homes, and this better life has in turn allowed me to travel to various parts of the world.  I have seen much of what is out there, and Canada, for all its faults and mistakes, is a paradise in so many ways compared to much of the world.  In my opinion anyone who holds a Canadian passport, or has been granted permanent status in this country, can consider themselves as having won the world lottery.  On the whole we are safe from threats of external violence and terror, we have incredible infrastructure to support our basic needs, we have opportunity to better ourselves and reach our full potential, we are free to pray and believe in the way that we choose, we can now marry who we please, and we are surrounded by natural beauty and wonder — but more importantly we are free to take all of this for granted, something which we must remember the vast majority of the peoples of this earth cannot.  So for as long as I can remember I have chosen to celebrate this great nation and be thankful for the life I was given here.  I have chosen to take the sum of its pros and cons, weighing what we have done right against what we have done wrong, trying to balance what I earlier referred to as this nation’s deep wound and other atrocities it has committed against what it tries to do now to correct the mistakes of the past, reconcile with its past, and attempt to secure and spread better values in other parts of the world.  Let us remember that there is no place on earth, no country that does not have a history of treating its own people or others with brutality and unfairness — many of which have done little to correct their mistakes, let alone acknowledge them.  So while Canada certainly does not have a perfect record, nor has it or could it ever adequately provide reconciliation or reparation to the indigenous people of this land, I see the good in that it acknowledges it’s past wrongdoings and continues to attempt to heal them. And please note that I say “we,” meaning I include myself — even though my forefathers cannot possibly be to blame for the past actions of this country, I as it’s citizen, who benefits from all that this country has to offer, must be an equal shareholder in the attempt to make right was has been done wrong.

It is my belief that when we look at our own country, or our ethnic background, our faith, the institutions which we belong to, that we have the capacity to simultaneously be saddened by what wrong has been done, mourn what has been lost, and still celebrate what we can be proud of.  This is why I have chosen to go ahead with this year’s Canada Day event — after an unprecedented period in global history, and with so much pain and sorrow to reflect on from our past and present, I believe more good can come from coming together and celebrating the life we have, the country which we benefit from, all the while remembering those who have made sacrifices, and those who unjustly did not have the opportunities that we have now.

Much love, peace, and respect to all.  Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Azim Virani

Founder, Twisted