Today I celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday with pride. As I’ve learned from my son’s book M is for Maple, this is a nation to be proud of.
Canadians invented insulin, basketball and the Canadarm. We gave the world Anne of Green Gables, the Underground Railroad, and maple syrup. We have public healthcare, amazing crops, multiculturalism, and some of the most beautiful and diverse lands in the world. (We have a desert in the middle of the mountains!)
We have some of the most talented musicians (sorry about Bieber) and comedians in the world.
We are polite, always apologize, have free speech, two national languages and whatever it is the Newfie accent happens to be.
I am proud to be Canadian. I am proud to be 5 generations Canadian, which sometimes surprises people around me; friends and acquaintances who are first and second generation Canadian. I love that there are people who risked their lives to come here and make things better for their families.
I love that we have a national public broadcaster and the fact that they can air a Canadian band’s farewell concert. (I also love that the band could address national issues their in front of the Prime Minister).
I love Canada, and yet… we have so far to go.
Our healthcare is far from perfect. Long waits at hospitals, provinces unwilling to share the burdens of people caught in the middle. Forced to pay for treatments not available in Canada by going to the US. Not enough quality physicians. We can do better.
We have fought against many of humankind’s worst atrocities, sending our soldiers far and wide to the aid of the Jewish in World War II through to the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s. We have invited refugees in with open arms. But we sent the Japanese to internment camps, and we stood by idly while countries annex each other the same way it happened before World War II. We can do better.
We have an abundance of natural resources but allow other countries unprecedented access to our mines and oil just to maintain economic ties. We can be better stewards of our country.
We have hundreds of years of wrongs committed against our First Nations. Unfair treaties, residential schools and the MMIWG inquiry to name a few. And if you thought that residential schools are a distant blemish in our otherwise pristine history (as I did until a few weeks ago), remember the last school shut down in 1999, the year after I graduated high school. People my age were ripped from their families and denied their culture. That’s going to take a long time to heal, and it’s going to be a complicated process. We have started it, but we can do better.
We have equal rights, but as a woman I am still paid 33% less than my male counterparts. Think about the exchange rate (as of today) for buying something from the US compared to Canada. That’s the same difference. As a white woman I have seen how terrified women of other cultures have been to speak up in front of me, let alone a panel of white men. We can do better.
Today, I celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday with pride, happy to raise my son in a country which has accomplished so much. But I will also teach him not to rest on our rose-coloured history. It only takes one corrupt person at any level of leadership to ruin our future. I will teach him that we can do better, that we should do better.