I have had the awesome privilege of living in some of the extremely different subcultures of Canada since I moved here in 2005. Living many years in a small Ontario farming town, the beautiful laid back island time of Vancouver Island, and in the incredible grind of Queen Street in Toronto, I have gotten many of Canada’s different flavours.To get even more acquainted with my new home country I have gone on (almost too many) road trips to the west coast and east coast. I have had lobster in Nova Scotia and driven through forest fire clouds in northern Saskatchewan.
With every view that crossed my window I was shocked by beauty – the way each area holds so truly to its “ness” that it is perfectly posed for an artist’s rendering. Through the rockies I felt the ancient solemnity of rocks and ice who’ve watched every passer, the gulf islands hold soggy rainforests draped on ocean cliff sides. Then I came across the farmland that holds our coasts together, and watched the horizon into the farthest counties like the views into past Canadians that the small towns were providing. The prairies open themselves to the sky, peeling back the land with swaying crops to show off long summer nights. The mid-eastern provinces have an incredible mix of both mountain and field scenery with connected city hubs centred around our expansive lakes. The east saves the essence of our origins with coasts quietly decorated with live music, lighthouses, and friendly neighbours.
All along the journey through Canada are campgrounds and walking trails – seemingly placed in the middle of nowhere. These are a testament to our willingness to go into the unknown vastness of our country and trust that there will be a cleared spot for our lawn chairs and beer.
It is truly a beautiful country with incredible, hard working people worth celebrating.
Happy Birthday Canada, in the years to come may you grow to….
1. Integrate First Nations people
With a history so complicated, we are just now beginning to unravel what has gone wrong and how to make it right. We are having to grapple with the odd (and often horrifying) things done by previous generations and figure out how to fix the past in the present. May we find a sense of community with all of the cultures that fill this country, and a common love for the land built with First Nations peoples’ histories so that we can live forward together.
2. Fearlessly articulate your morals
Canada, may you stand up furiously for your desire to not be furious. Unapologetically protect your apologetic nature! Since it is so hard to find a common culture across one of the most diverse countries, may we strip things down to some common morals. May these be free of our different religious pulls and political preferences, and let us firmly state them as a guiding baseline in the new territory of activism and social justice. How do we want to treat women and the LGBTQ community? How do we want to treat people of a different ethnic background? What rights should we protect? It is time for us to establish our boundaries so that we can navigate globalization with more clarity, and create a stronger sense of community within cultural diversity.
3. Protect your beautiful environment
Canada you have a treasure you may not realize! The natural wonders and resources of this land are not to be taken for granted in a world so quickly being populated. May we find economic and practical ways to protect and regenerate our environment. Let us consider ourselves a green country and decide to live in a way that will respect the parks we love so much. My ultimate hope is that we could start to regenerate our farming practices to protect the soil, sequester carbon and preserve water while updating our cities to keep our air clean.
4. Delight in scientific discovery
This is a country of wise creative people wanting the opportunity to develop on the crest of the wave of technology. Let us embrace it! Create opportunities for exciting development here so that we avoid brain drain and design our own solutions to our environmental and housing concerns. We are a country of well educated, with the resources to learn and grow – may we hope to identify ourselves as leaders in the global scientific conversation.
5. Gain independence from the USA
It is time to go our own way. Like younger siblings who rebel to create their own identity so too must we be brave enough to be independent. May our media begin to focus our attention back to the policies of our own government, and may our people remember that our fate is not so closely tied with our troubled older brother, but that there is an active living country that we are captains of. Canada is created by us, and it can be done without trying to mimic what our neighbours believe.
6. Shorten the gap between urban and rural
It is astonishing to know the true separation between areas like Toronto and the surrounding farm land. The gap of mutual fear for the “otherness” keeps this separation growing. While moving back and forth between my downtown apartment and the farmland of my high school I experienced a very real (almost physical) culture shock. There is a miscommunication between the areas and a resulting political struggle that does not need to be there. I have proven that we can be comfortable riding the subway and a tractor, and I hope that one day the goals of each side will coincide so that we may feel more like neighbours than strangers.
7. Help the mentally ill
As we gain luxuries in our developed world, may we provide more care for those struggling with mental illness (especially our youth in northern communities). One of the last great areas of suffering, I see all around me the hell that can be caused by mental illness – and the ways in which it cycles in generations. May our fantastic health care system continue to grow to support those that need it, and may we get very real and serious about helping our youth age with trauma resilience and resources for dealing with all of the terrifying mental states that can develop.
8. Make room in our government and workplaces for new ideas
The feeling of “newness” is terrifying to most, and the greater the responsibility of the decision maker the less likely they must feel to take risks. But as a young engineering student I am desperate for the opportunity to create newness and to update what is no longer working for our country. With our morals articulated, and our sense of independence secured, may we see that technological and habitual change can be incorporated in specific ways with enough feedback to ensure a good trajectory. May we get better at trying something new.
9. Keep doing what you’re doing
To live in a country that protects my rights enough to allow me to write this blog post is a huge luxury. Having enough work for me that I can afford to travel to different communities within it is liberating. And by housing some of the most polite people I have met, this country has changed my beliefs about the nature of humanity. No longer does the world feel completely wrapped up in religious battles or power struggles – here I have found a sense that people are living just to live. To hear the birds and listen to music around a campfire. In our youthful energy we can debate some of the most controversial topics and remain safe. May we continue to keep this openness and warmth.
Thank you Canada!