Oh Canada. What a marvelous place to live. How lucky we all are, whether with were born here, or came from elsewhere. Whether we are First Nations or non-First Nations. Whether we’ve been Canadian all our lives, or are recently arrived refugees.
There’s hockey and lacrosse. Poutine and Nanaimo bars. Craft beer and VQA wines. Mega cities and utter wilderness.
Best of all, we live in a prosperous, peaceful land, with democracy and freedoms. The press is free to report injustices. Education is a right of every child, boy or girl. People are free to associate with whom they want. Unions can bargain collectively.
These are not things to take for granted. Last year, around the world 73 journalists were killed. But none were killed in Canada. In Canada, the last journalists to be killed were Tara Singh Hayer in Surrey in 1998 and Brian Smith in Edmonton in 1995.
In many countries of the world far fewer girls go to school than boys. But in Canada, there is educational equity for girls and boys. From kindergarten to post-secondary, females are in school as often as males.
Freedom of association may seem like a given. But when a book reading club in Angola was jailed this year for 3 months for simply reading and discussing books, you begin to appreciate that the right to meet with the people you want. Whether it is a church or gurdwara, motorcycle club or sports group, political party or bridge club, we are free to spend time with the people we want to.
Trade unions allow workers to bargain collectively with their employers. While wages are often top of mind, worker safety is just as important of an issue, especially for workers like firefighters, railroaders, skilled trades, and resource workers. Unions make a difference. While just one worker died building Vancouver 2010 Olympic facilities, over 1,200 have been killed so far building the 2020 World Cup facilities in Qatar.
Canada is a beautiful place with bountiful resources. But there are other places who can make equal claims about beauty or natural resources. Beauty isn’t what makes Canada great, nor is our resources.
What makes Canada a great place to be are the political freedoms we all enjoy. Even when the discussions are the most difficult, such as the recent debate on the legislation on assisted dying, the debate was tempered and respectful. A complex issue, with strong emotions, addressed with respect and thoughtfulness.
We went through an election last year where the party in power changed hands, and there was no gunfire, there was no coup. People went out to the polling stations and voted the previous government out with small pieces of paper.
While there are many issues still to resolve between First Nations and non-First Nations, negotiations are the way most things are dealt with. Slowly, things are changing. Revenue sharing agreements on resources are defined. The truth and reconciliation exercises are changing how we all see our history of Indian Residential Schools.
Canada Day is a celebration of many things. Canada is a great place, and I know how lucky we are to be here. This Canada Day, there will be many Syrian refugees celebrating Canada Day for the first time. They, as much as anyone, will appreciate that the best part of Canada is the peace we live in.
Happy Canada Day. We have so much to celebrate.