It’s Canada Day, a day to celebrate and give thanks. A big part of gratitude is recognition. If we’re to be grateful for what we have, our eyes have to be open (and excuse me if i am repeating myself… i know i wrote something similar about Pride a few days ago).
To almost any observer far away “Canada” is a fortunate country. But do we ourselves recognize what has made this country such a great place to live? We’re blessed with resources & natural beauty. Perhaps the first thing that suggests is a need to be more than proud of lakes & trees & mountains & rivers, but to be responsible stewards. That the current government has gutted governmental agencies charged with monitoring our performance as environmental stewards –and as ruthless exploiters—is a sad commentary indeed.
There are countries who have seemed to remain neutral, uninvolved in wars and colonial exploitation. Sometimes that’s an accident of geography, as with Switzerland, a country that’s so difficult to invade that it’s a natural stronghold and therefore a great place to put banks (exploiting that neutrality) or simply to have peace conferences. Sweden is a bit off the beaten track as well, a country that seems to be a beacon of human rights, even if there are also business interests taking advantage of the neutrality.
I mention neutrality as an ideal because Canada evolved in the half century after the Second World War –when we had a strikingly large proportion of the population enlisted in the war effort and a huge navy—to a country involved in peace-keeping activities. Our swords were beaten into ploughshares, at least for a few decades. Again, it’s a concern that the current government lacks the vision of the previous one, who had the backbone under Jean Chrétien to say no to Blair, Bush and his coalition of the criminally deluded. Had it been Harper in charge, I shudder to think how many Canadian deaths there might have been in Iraq, let alone what our involvement in the Middle East might be, given our fearless leader’s willingness to let us be puppets for his American heroes.
I admire a more moderate path, a reflection of Canada’s mixture of values & cultures. Recent events in the media are maybe the best indication of where that moderation comes from. Last week? Toronto hosted World Pride, harmonizing beautifully with the recent election of the Premier of Ontario—Kathleen Wynne— a lesbian, winning with a majority. This week we’re seeing the return of homophobic Mayor Rob Ford, who times his rehab perfectly so that he wouldn’t have to answer questions from the press as to why he missed Pride Day celebrations (questions he was forced to answer last year). Let’s not be too cocky. Toronto is both a city of gay rights and a city that has some very conservative values. This is a city where—until quite recently—you couldn’t get alcohol on Sundays without some kind of sandwich, a city of churches and clean streets. The respect Canadians have for the law and willingness to do as they’re told bespeaks a place where we probably understand the difference between rights & privileges. Our stoicism, tolerance for cold and gratitude for having escaped previous places of oppression made us a great ally for Britain, sending sons & daughters to serve.
I’d like to think we’re also sufficiently educated to know when a politician is lying or foolish. Wynne’s election went a long way to restoring my faith in the system, that Tim Hudak’s bad mathematics did indeed add up: as votes for the Liberals that is. Today I’m reading that two Liberals were elected in the GTA –Adam Vaughn and Arnold Chan—while the two Alberta ridings stayed Conservative, leading me to hope that maybe Mr Harper will think about following Mr McGuinty into retirement.
And this fall I can’t help but think that Mr Ford will test the axiom we learned from Star Trek (and not from GWB).
I feel grateful to have this wonderful place, and can live with the outcome. You know it’s truly democratic because you don’t always like the results. Sometimes? the majority disagrees with you. Whether it’s Olivia Chow or John Tory or Rob Ford who win come October 2014, we’re always a weird mix, a funny balance. We can handle disagreements in our family.