“Oh Canada, our home and native land” — we’ll sing these words of the national anthem tomorrow as we celebrate Canada Day, our national holiday.
Canada Day is a time to contemplate the benefits and privileges of Canadian citizenship. Here are my top ten.
1. I value the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which forms part of the Canadian Constitution. The Charter guarantees freedom of conscience, religion, thought, assembly, and association. It also guarantees the right to vote.
2. I value the Canadian way of life. Canadians are polite and generous, yet reserved. They accept diversity, are slow to judge, and, generally, keep their political and religious ideas private.
3. I value living in a country that has many regional differences. Sometimes when traveling just a hundred miles, it’s possible to feel that you are in another country. The biggest contrast is between English and French Canada; but, the lifestyles of people from the prairies, the Northern territories, the Maritime provinces, and the West coast have unique features. There are also differences in lifestyles of big cities and the small rural towns.
4. I am proud of the Canadian flag that prominently features the maple leaf. Although Canada’s international reputation has been tarnished in the past ten years, Canadians still proudly wear the flag as a lapel pin when traveling abroad.
5. I’m proud of Canada’s food heritage. Here are some of my best food memories: Bannock cooked over an open fire served by an elder at a feast on a First Nation community in Northern Ontario, Lake Huron yellow perch cooked to perfection in my favourite Grand Bend restaurant; butter tarts from a Saskatchewan bakery, cod and chips in a Newfoundland diner, freshly caught salmon cooked to perfection on the beach in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, a fresh lobster dinner in Nova Scotia, home made perogies and venison at a retirement dinner in Kenora, Ontario, and, a pail of oysters with a bottle of hot sauce from Cape Breton roadside stand.
6. There’s no point of thinking about Canada’s food without mention of the excellent wine from Ontario and British Columbia wineries. During the past 15 years, Canadian vintners have won many international awards for ice wines. We regularly enjoy outings to wineries in the Niagara region where chefs pair local food with their best wines. I also love that most Canadian wines are bottled with screw tops!
7. I can get excited about some Canadian sports. I’ve recently enjoyed seeing the Canadian women play in the FIFA World Cup. Too bad that men’s soccer stinks in Canada. I love hockey but watch only international games as the NHL has become a waste of time. It’s too commercial and too violent. The Pan Am Games begin in Toronto on July 7. We were unsuccessful in our quest for tickets for the velodrome bike races; that means that television broadcasts will need to suffice.
8. I am grateful for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation aka CBC. The CBC provides excellent radio and television coverage of world news, Canadian news, and Canadian culture in both languages. If I can’t listen or watch it everyday, I check cbc.ca to get updates — it feels like an addiction!
9. I am proud of the multicultural nature of Canadian society. Since the early nineteenth century Canada has welcomed immigrants from every corner of the world. My ancestors came from continental Europe in 1900. My husband is an immigrant who arrived in 1957 on a student visa and remained here to pursue his career and to acquire Canadian citizenship. Canada also welcomes refugees from war-torn countries with generous re-settlement policies.
10. I acknowledge the role of Aboriginal and First Nations people in the making of our nation. During my career, I was privileged to visit many First Nations communities. I learned about their rich culture and history. I participated in sacred ceremonies. In retirement, I struggle to understand what can be done to make sure that aboriginal people have a place of opportunity in our country. Despite the Prime Minister’s apology to former students of Residential Schools and the recent report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, public policy in Canada fails the significant needs of our First people. Treaties are ignored. Calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women are ignored. On Canada day, I’ll give thanks for the contributions of First Nations in making our country what it is and I’ll keep searching for ways to give more opportunity to our First people.
As citizens, Canadians need to value and celebrate the many advantages we enjoy. Our climate is not perfect and our laws can always be improved, but, overall, there is much to appreciate and celebrate. The anthem goes on with these words “Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee”. Indeed there is much to guard!
For all Canadian readers — enjoy this holiday and celebrate the wonders of our country.
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