For as long as I can remember, Canada Day has meant a lot to me.
I was always the kid expressing my love for my country. For whatever reason, it dawned on me at an early age how fortunate I was to live in this country.
Being vocally patriotic is not something that Canadians are known for. For whatever reason, overt, chest-thumping patriotism isn’t something that we’re known for, or that we’ve embraced.
I think it’s in part due to our proximity to the U.S., and the fact that part of our identity is that we don’t want to be thought of as Americans.
As so while we share a border with our friends to the U.S., and we have certainly sided with them on many occasions, we don’t want to be viewed as Americans when we travel abroad.
So our patriotism is more subdued, although I would like to think that if a political candidate came out with the slogan of “Make Canada great again,” we’d likely respond by saying “we’re already the best in the world. Why would we merely want to be great?”
Sure there have been times in which it’s been cool to be patriotic. The Toronto Raptors certainly tapped into that Canadian pride with their “We the North” slogan, even though none of their players are Canadian.
We’ve seen that patriotism shine through during the Olympics, particularly in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver when Canadian athletes had a record-setting performance; when we’ve seen Canadians thrive on the global stage in entertainment, science, athletics, literature and other endeavours; or when stories of our military prowess are shared.
For a country that’s only 152 years old, and has a population of a little more than 37 million people, to be one of the global powers is quite an impressive feat. And we’ve been one of those global powers for much of our history.
These are things that make me proud to be Canadian.
But it’s much more than that.
When I think of Canada, I think of freedom. I think of the freedom we have to vote for the political party and the political candidate of our choice. When we go to the polls for the federal election this fall, we won’t have to worry about armed guards at polling stations. We won’t have to worry about being intimidated to vote a certain way.
And we know that when the votes are counted and the next prime minister and government of Canada are revealed, that it will have happened in legitimate fashion. We won’t have to question whether the ballot boxes were stuffed, or if there was an illegal manipulation of the voting.
In the end, it’s the people who will decide the next government.
We also have the freedom to be critical of our government, within reason. It’s a freedom I have exercised on more than one occasion. (I get the feeling that our current prime minister will give me at least one or two more reasons to be critical of him between now and the October election).
In some countries, criticism of the government of any kind can be met with a prolonged jail sentence.
We have the freedom to believe what we want, and to express those beliefs. Our country isn’t a theocracy; we have a distinct separation between church and state. There are a lot of countries out there where they don’t enjoy that same freedom, where if you don’t hold to certain beliefs, your freedom, or even your life, can be at risk.
We have freedoms when it comes to love, to entertainment choices, to lifestyle decisions and so much more that many covet. It’s a big part of why so many immigrants and refugees want to come to our country.
They know they would have opportunities here that they wouldn’t enjoy elsewhere.
I’m proud of our diversity. Regardless of who has said it, or under what circumstance, diversity is strength.
I’m proud of our history as a nation. Some people have chosen to dump on it because of some errors made by leaders of our country in the past, or because we have celebrated individuals who, in hindsight, committed some pretty heinous acts.
I won’t deny the mistakes in statements and actions from Sir John A. Macdonald and other early leaders. But we live in the greatest country in the world. Macdonald’s role in shaping Canada can’t be denied.
My personal belief is that the best for Canada is yet to come.
I’m proud of our sports, our energy sector, our farmers, our culture, our talented people who make a difference in so many walks of life, from entertainment to science, and of the work ethic we see on a daily basis.
I’m proud of our military history, and how Canadians have made immeasurable contributions, both on the combat field and in peacekeeping missions.
So on Canada Day, I celebrate Canada’s 152nd birthday with pride.
But I also celebrate being Canadian throughout the year.