Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Canada 150: Today

This Saturday marks Canada's 150th birthday. It's a fascinating milestone in some ways. Compared to some countries were are young and immature. Compared to our North American peers, the United States (1789) and Mexico (1810), we are the junior member. There are a number of countries that make us seem like children. Though we can honestly put that aside. France may have existed in some form since the fifth century, but the modern France we understand today dates from either 1945 or 1871, however you examine it. This leads me to the first thing I want to talk about.

When I was growing up it seemed to me that Canadians could not rest easy with Canada as itself. We were constantly comparing ourselves to other countries and usually the comparison was not favourable. At best we would exaggerate small achievements beyond their reasonable scope, or award ourselves participation ribbons for some historical event or piece of trivia. I think, thankfully, we are moving past that as a collective culture.

From my childhood in the 1990s and early 2000s to the present I get the distinct impression that Canadians are unapologetically proud of their country. They do not feel the need to pull out the international measuring stick and feel inferior or superior to other countries. The blanket anti-Americanism I recall from my youth has ebbed away. Our emotional/cultural relationship with the United States will always be complicated I imagine, just like say Denmark and Germany, or the UK and France, or Turkey and Greece, except our historical links are far closer and our differences smaller. This maturity has the tremendous benefit, I believe, of allowing Canadians to look inward and ask themselves how to make this country better without looking wistfully through the glass at others.  

I consider myself a patriot. There are as many reasons to love our country as people who live within it. I'd like to take a minute to celebrate what I find so special about it, if you'll indulge me.

I think the moments when I feel most connected to Canada is when I'm travelling. It doesn't have to be elaborate. I feel it when I bike down the bike path in Brampton. I've felt it driving down rural highways across Ontario, and crossing the Northwest Territories, or flying over the Rocky Mountains, or zooming along in a GO bus towards the CN Tower, passing through Ontario on the train to Ottawa, or zipping through Toronto on the subway. I guess it has to do with something about taking in our country. It's breaking a routine and seeing other Canadians going about their lives in all its mosaic beauty.

The place I have felt most in touch with this feeling is in Ottawa. There is a magic, for lack of a better word, at looking up at the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. Looking at the statues, the Ottawa River, the Rideau Canal, the sculptures, the monuments and buildings fills me with awe. I am a big politics and history nerd so I am sure that plays no small part, but Ottawa embodies our collective spirit. The natural beauty of this country from icebergs, to wildlife, to incredible vistas inspire wonder for a country of such wealth.

While it has become clich├ęd there has to be something said about our openness as a country. We are not perfect, certainly, and I think we ignore those who are upset with growing diversity and how our transforming society is living some behind, as in Europe, as in America. Still, Western countries around the globe struggle to do what we are accomplishing in this country. There is much work to be done, but men, women and children of different ethnicities, faiths, and beliefs live side by side, work together, go to school together, and build relationships with one another in peace. Is that idealistic? Yes, but I think it is rooted in fundamental truths about our country. It is something to cherish.

Our country has radically transformed over the last 150 years. The process has been painful and at times very difficult but it has brought us to the present moment. Canada on its sesquicentennial has much to celebrate. So, on July 1st take a moment to enjoy our shared country and the people who make it what it is today.  

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