What does it mean to live in Canada?
We are such a young nation, and the country’s story is only just beginning.
154 years, when you look at the many centuries people occupied and journeyed across the very same land, is barely even a blip in the grand scheme of things.
Yet, we cannot deny the rapid-pace change that has taken place ever since the British and French came forth and mapped out the borders we know today.
I find it impossible to describe what a Canadian is to other countries. Canadians do not have ancient origins like the Romans or Greeks – therefore, it’s often impossible to pinpoint an agreeable beginning to our story.
As a colony-country – an expansion experiment for another nation – that leaves us with a place void of longstanding traditions, national cuisines, and a celebrated identity.
I can tell you, we are not products and logos as so many try to claim us to be. French fry toppings and maple syrup and plaid shirts and hockey broadcasts are not what make up a culture.
Nor do we have to be defined by our past.
It is a troubled time for this country.
People are hanging their heads in shame while celebrations are being cancelled.
Indigenous peoples of these lands are mourning.
Partisan politics, a rise in anti-Asian racism, anger over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, talks of western separation, and inequality have made this a difficult moment we can’t ignore.
Though many wish we could, we cannot go back to the past to fix what we know now. We cannot change who founded or country or decisions that our leaders have made.
We can not forget the past – only learn and grow from it.
Canada Day, Dominion Day, or whatever heritage marker on July 1 was never about the past – it was about acknowledging the existing freedom we have to make a brighter future.
So, let us move forward with knowledge and compassion and hindsight to make it just that.
Celebrate diversity of the people – all people.
Celebrate diversity of the land from the oceans to the arctic and the mountains, hills, and prairies.
Celebrate the compassion and kindness we so often claim that we are known for.
Patriotism is not waving a flag or painting a maple leaf on your cheek.
The way we choose to honour and adapt our roots while understanding what those roots are is what defines us.
Learn about the history and traditions of the First Nations; offer a hand or an ear or your heart.
Try foods from around the globe. Learn a new language. Welcome all faiths and sexual orientations.
Log off social media and put the phone away and talk to one another about this country. Learning about the past and building an inclusive future cannot be done by sharing posts and commenting on threads.
It can only be done by listening.
I was taught in school that, above all, Canada was a mosaic. A place where cultures and creeds were honoured and celebrated.
Let us show the world and remind each other that this is why we celebrate Canada Day.
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