Canada going strong as we celebrate 150 years
June 23rd, 2017 - 3:48pm
As we prepare for some special Canada Day celebrations this year it is only natural to think about what it is that makes us Canadian. Of course there’s no simple answer, but many discussions centred on Canadian achievements, historical figures, and cultural touch points are being held to try to understand who we have become over a 150 years of confederation. But 150 years barely scratches the surface and the truth is that much of who we are was determined over a significantly longer period of time which predated confederation.
That history is gritty and filled with conflict, compromise, and cooperation between settlers from England and France and the Indigenous People they encountered when they arrived in North America. Those relationships have formed a significant part of our national identity and the strength of strong linguistic and culturally diverse populations has helped us avoid the cultural melting pot that defines the United States. As a result Canada is more diverse and arguably more accepting of differences.
This is all the more important since our population has always been small as compared to our land mass and we have relied on waves of immigration to address this challenge. While having many cultures rub up against each other isn’t always a recipe for success, in Canada we have made it work for the most part and hopefully learned from our mistakes along the way. Those lessons remain important as we continue to engage in the process of building stronger and more respectful nation to nation relationships with Indigenous People. We can’t change the past; however, we can be honest and educate ourselves so that history does not repeat itself. Through a sense of hope, we can develop a path forward together, as our ancestors intended.
But even our small population doesn’t limit us. Canada always punches above its weight internationally. This is true in sports, culture, commerce and more, but there is little doubt our reputation was born out of conflict and cemented by the role we played in World Wars 1 and 2. The heavy lifting our troops performed to liberate of France and hasten an end of the 1st World War is often pointed to as the moment that Canada came of age. Since then we have pulled our weight and more in numerous missions including significant peacekeeping roles. Maybe our ability to work past our differences make us so well suited for building and protecting peace around the world.
The fact that so many disparate elements came together to create Canada is impressive enough. That we can maintain a connection over such a physically big country with so many geographic and cultural regions is nearly miraculous.
In some ways, Canada shouldn’t work at all and there are those who say a country built east to west faced too many geographic obstacles to succeed. But rising to those challenges and undertaking big transportation projects not only facilitated our east-west connections, it also became the bedrock of a national vision and a source of Canadian pride. The CPR, which was completed when Canada was just 20 years old may be the best example of that, but it has company. The construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway which allowed freighters to travel far inland from the ocean became the foundation of a manufacturing base centred around the Great Lakes and brought the produce of the Prairies and resources from our forest to market, fueling generations of Canadian growth.
These are just a few of the ways we became the Canada that is celebrating our first 150 years. We can surely count our blessings. We are stable, prosperous, and peaceful with the prospect of an amazing next 150 years if we can work as hard as we did over our first one and a half centuries.
Happy Canada Day!