Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Birthday, Canada -- whatever you are

On this your birthday (or should I say our birthday?), I have a question for my country. Just what are you, Canada?

Are you the geography of this vast and varied nation, fourth largest on earth, possessor of some of the world's largest islands, some of which are virtually uninhabited?

Are you the history of the dizzying array of first nations who, before the Europeans came, occupied this land that stretches its coastlines across three oceans?

How are you still tied to the cultures of the old European colonizing nations, England and France, as well as the early Irish of Montreal, the early Scots of the Red River Colony, early Metis of Saskatchewan and Alberta?

How has your history been influenced by groups like the Ukrainians, Norwegians, Mennonites, Czechs and others who established so many of the early farms on the Canadian prairies? 

How were you formed by the Icelanders who settled in Manitoba, or the Finns who organized unions in the Ontario woods? What did the outport Newfoundlanders contribute to our society?

How did the Acadians influence the nation we are today, descended as they were from the friends, neighbours and relatives of those early Nova Scotia farmers deported to Louisiana during the colonial wars, destined to become the 'Cajuns?

How strongly was the nation formed by events in Saskatchewan, the province where the visionary leader Tommy Douglas and his government nurtured so many ideas that became known as Canadian?

Then there is Quebec and the other pockets of French Canada. Mes chers Quebecois, habitants "originaux," qu'est-ce que c'est que vous souviens?

Yes, Canada, all of this is part of you. You are an improbable band of ethnic and cultural groups, tied together, however loosely, by a liberal ideal that goes back further than the date of nationhood.

A multi-faceted collection of peoples, this nation has evolved steadily over our history. Americans of more communitarian temperament continue to drift north across 49, and more individualistic Canadians find find homes south of the "medicine line."

Loosely tied together from east to west by Highway 1, which connects Victoria (left) with Cape Spear (right), the easternmost point of the North American continent, you are also joined to the Arctic Ocean port of Tuktoyaktuk by the North Klondike and Dempster Highways. Happy Birthday to this unlikely conglomeration of ideologies, ethnic heritages and spectacular geographic wealth that is Canada, and to all of us who call it home.

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