A birthday; a celebration of a life lived long and hopefully well. We share the joy and the hardship of the accumulation of days from infancy to this moment and if we stop for a minute maybe the impact of our relationship.
Canada’s birthday July 1 1867 is different from mine. Canada had been around for millions of years as a land mass and hundreds of years as a settled region. Even the name had been associated with the area for decades. It was the recognition of a formal alignment of disparate cultures and ideologies that occurred on this day 149 years ago.
Canada as we know it today didn’t exist then. For most of the country and more than 1/3 of her citizens we celebrate something that we weren’t part of for many years. In Newfoundland they waited almost 100 years to become part of the Federation and yet they will wave flags and sing anthems today and likely have a cake with 149 candles.There is something special about Canada that none of us who live here can ever muster the courage to articulate and today we whisper the characteristics of loyalty, industry, inclusivity, perseverance and politeness in each other’s ears. And then we go back to being humble about the whole thing.
In the life expectancy of a country we are very young; a teenager coming upon adulthood. There is a bit of history. Most of it we can if not be proud of not be embarrassed by. There have been awkward moments of discord internally. There are east versus west tensions, French versus English, urban against rural, immigrant against well early immigrants and yet we coexist as best we can. Maybe what we are really celebrating is marriage – bigamy not a birthday. The commitment to come into a union and do our best every day to live happily ever after together.
Next year is a bug anniversary celebration. If it is anything like 1967, the year long event will unite us in nostalgic and joyful parties. I remember singing Bobby Gimby’s ” Canada” and hearing it at every turn. ” Canada, 1,2,3 little Canadians …North, south, east and west …we are are free” There was Participaction, flag waving, picnics, pronouncements and restored passion for the marriage. How does this happen in a world where there is so much division? We watch battles taking place, people being displaced, dissolution of bonds, and politicians promoting poisonous positions of blame and hatred. Yet, with all our frailties and our insecurity we are trying to stay together. Certainly some of the children are hateful, spouting venom at the drop of an idea and we haven’t quite figured out the role we are to play and how to act responsibly all the time. We can be individually selfish and collectively graceful about the same issue on the same day. We can be a collectively committed group of insecure people and are still able to accomplish great things. We are seldom or never at the front of the nation’s parade but are often recognized by others for our hospitality, our livability, our sincerity and our resolve to keep working at the federation experiment.
My country celebrates her anniversary today and I get to wear red and white and sing “O Canada” in two languages if I am able. It is okay if I stumble over some of the words and mumble some of the French. I can sing loud and proud for one day. On Canada day, we are all Canadians. It doesn’t matter if your ancestors landed in Loch Ban Nova Scotia in 1809 or you and your partner landed in Vancouver a year ago. Today we rally around our similarities. If we pause to reflect, it may only be for a few moments, we recognize what amazing freedom and opportunity the geography lottery has given us. For most citizens we are free to pursue prosperity (whatever that means to you), we are free to pursue a partner to share a life with and have children, if we choose. I can worship or not, a God or gods, of my choice and lay claim to dogma or laissez faire as I wish. My voice can be heard on political and financial issues. If I wish I can help solve local and national social issues or sit on the sidelines and complain. If I believe in fiscal responsibility or support social engineering, I am free to espouse their advantages. We can assemble and argue, we can come together and volunteer, we can worship, we can vote, we can own property, we can …
In a world where discord reigns I would say we have earned the right to pause on our individual journeys and say ” Happy Anniversary Canada – Well Done”