Sunday, July 1, 2012

Canada Day...

Never one to miss a reflective moment, I couldn’t resist the opportunity this morning to consider what it means to be a Canadian on our nation’s 145th birthday. As I stepped out of the shower and wrapped myself in a gigantic Hudson’s Bay striped bath towel (no joke), that I received for Father’s Day, I was reminded of the importance of our nation’s symbols. The iconic Hudson Bay stripe pattern is as much a part of Canada’s history as the globally recognized image of the Canadian “Mountie” atop his trusty steed.  Granted both of these symbols are now controlled by foreign entities, Disney & Onex Corp., but this does not negate the fact that what we are really known for is the characteristics that our many symbols represent. Consider the industrious beaver, lumber jacks and hockey players. We are known for being hardworking, resilient and friendly. These images collectively tell an unwritten story about a country that many would argue is the greatest in the world. At the risk of sounding too modest (Canadian), I would have to say we are certainly among the greatest nations of our modern time. The UN consistently ranks Canada in the top ten of developed countries for our high standard of living. http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/. That is nothing to apologize for.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remembered how I used to inquire of my parents about why as Canadians we didn’t wave our flags like the American’s did on TV. My mother would answer with some sensible explanation about how our neighbors to the south were just more “patriotic” than we were as a country but not necessarily more proud. I never really understood patriotism in its proper context until I was old enough to know the difference between patriotism and jingoism. Still, I was at times jealous of our American neighbors with their fireworks, bunting and streamers celebrating every 4th of July like it would be the last one. During the Cold War that notion was not too farfetched for some and also a useful political device in crafting public opinion at the same time. I also remember the instructors of my youth telling me that as Canadians, one of our most distinguished characteristics was that, “We’re not like Americans”. This also bothered me and didn’t seem like a true identity. I wanted our nation to be known for who we were, not for who we weren't. Unlike the famous Canadian Marshall McLuhan, who said “Canada is the only country that knows how to live without an identity”, I believe we have solved that puzzle and agree instead with one of the greatest statesmen of all time, Sir Winston Churchill, who said, ” Canada, is the linchpin of the English speaking world.” I believe that statement to be even truer now than ever before.

Now decades later, we are waving our flags more and apologizing less … for being - if you will pardon the irony, “All that we can be”. This too is a good thing in my estimation. Canada plays a much more active role in international affairs and we are no longer described only in the context of our relationship to the U.S.A.   Some may argue that we have moved closer towards the images and ideals of our American cousins. I would argue that we just figured out how to be unapologetically Canadian, now that we are all grown up. National confidence is not jingoism. It’s a pre-requisite for greatness. This grand experiment we call Canada is now almost a century and a half old. With the last thirty years entirely under our own steam , in my opinion, we are now more than ever... all about who and what we are … and not at all defined by who or what we are not.  I’m proud of that and I hope you are too.

Happy Canada Day

KWJ

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