I remember my mother telling me all about becoming a Canadian citizen back in the 1950’s with great pride. She worked hard at overcoming her Danish accent and learned to read and write in English, answering all of the questions on her citizen test correctly. She told me that she likely knew more about Canada than many Canadian born citizens did, and I think she was probably right.
There were a lot of other Danes who emigrated from Denmark to Canada or the US back then, and also when my Grandfather on my father’s side did in 1912. He was just a teenager when his parents sent him to the U.S. to be educated, sponsored by his rich aunt and uncle. My grandfather didn’t like his aunt and uncle much, so he left and travelled all over the U.S. before finally coming to Canada. He must have liked it here because he went back to fetch and marry my Grandmother, and they both came back to Canada to live permanently. Either that or he was avoiding conscription in the U.S. :-).
I remember clearly Canada’s Centennial in 1967. There were songs and celebrations everywhere, including my back yard. Expo ’67 was in full swing in Montreal, so I decided to create a mini expo in my back yard that summer, complete with mini pavillions and flags from different countries. In school we sang the Centennial Song, “Ca-a-a-n-a-a-d-a-a (one little, two little, three Canadians)…we-ee-ee-ee love thee (now there are 20 million)”. I think this was the first time that I became aware of my citizenry and felt real pride in being Canadian. Holy cow, that was 44 years ago.
As an older, and perhaps more cynical Canadian now, there are some directions we’ve taken as a country in the past few years that I don’t agree with, three that stand out in particular. In no particular order, the first has to do with our Canadian Armed Forces; we used to have the reputation of being peacekeepers and I was always proud of that fact. But it seems that since the Somalia Affair, where Canadian soldiers created a scandal when they beat a teenage Somalian to death and posed for pictures with him, things have gone downhill. I have a nephew in the forces who has been to Afghanistan several times, and I don’t know how I feel about that either. I certainly support him, but I’m not sure what purpose it has served for all of them to risk their lives in that place. And with all of the unrest in Arab countries, I don’t know that I like the idea of Canadian soldiers being deployed to “protect” citizens of those countries if it means dropping bombs and firing bullets. What’s so peacekeeping about that?
The second direction we’ve gone in lately that doesn’t please me has to do with our environment. We are a country of abundant natural resources, but I think we can find a way to make use of them without destroying everything else in the process. Environment should not be trumped by commerce. Our government doesn’t want to clamp down on industries that pollute and it doesn’t appear to want to support green initiatives (which I think is the only way of the future), unless it makes them look good, or unless they are obliged to.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a diehard tree hugger, but I am practical! Doesn’t it make sense that if you spend all you have, there’s nothing left? If there are companies and industries out there who know how to do what they do without making a mess, shouldn’t we do everything to encourage them? For Pete’s sake, it’s pure ignorance and stupidity not to!
The last thing that concerns me is an attitude that is spreading about immigrants. Because of this “war on terror” state of mind we’ve been subjected to in the last few years, there are more and more Canadians who want to pretty much close our borders, if not completely, then to anyone who looks or acts like they might strap a bomb to themselves and push the button. We have been brainwashed to think that immigrants are potential enemies. What kind of attitude is that? We are a country of immigrants, the majority of them wanting to live here because they think Canada is a wonderful place to plant roots. And because our birthrate is not high, we actually DEPEND on the influx of immigrants to build our numbers and add to the tax base. So come on, people, let’s stop with the paranoia. Most of us wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for our immigrant ancestors.
There is no perfect country, but where I live comes pretty close. I’m biased, of course :-). A country isn’t a static thing, it is always a work in progress, and I think we stand out best when we demonstrate our peaceful, respectful side to the rest of the world, and when we celebrate our many cultures. That’s the Canada I’m proud of.
Happy Canada Day…Bon Fête du Canada!