Our national identity at 150
Today our country will be painted red and white from coast to coast to coast. We’ll all hear the loon calls of Wheat Kings and take our toonies to Tim’s. Our breakfasts will be a big ol’ bowl of Shreddies with milk from a bag, and, after a dinner of back bacon and ketchup chips, we’ll relax on the chesterfield with a two-four and talk about the Golden Goal. At 150, we’re still young and there is a lot to celebrate: sports, music, vibrant cities, expansive untouched wild, and people from all over the world coming here to call Canada home.
It’s easy to be self-congratulatory this July 1st with articles, videos, and polls popping up declaring Canada to be the greatest nation to live in. Or just take a look south of the border for a quick fix of reassurance that this is the right place to be. July 1st is the best time to think about why we love Canada. More importantly, it is the best time to ask what it means to be Canadian: what it meant 150 years ago, what it means today, and what we can hope it will mean in 150 years more.
As a birthday gift to our home and native land, I propose we all care about it a little bit more. I don’t mean to celebrate louder or raise a larger flag. I mean to pay attention to its challenges, learn about its history, and consider what Canada will be for future generations.
Care that we are celebrating the anniversary of the British North America Act.
Care that we were New France before that.
Care that, even before that, people lived here for thousands of years with their own customs and languages. Care that they are still here today.
Care that St. John’s was established in 1583 and Victoria in 1849.
Care that Canada wasn’t entirely independent until 1982.
Care that we have a unicorn on our coat of arms.
Care that Céline Dion is cool now.
Care that there are 6 million people in the GTA and 168 people on Ellesmere Island.
Care that we have greater economic inequality than ever before in our history.
Care that we have another new Conservative leader who opposed same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to choose.
Care that our Prime Minister is open to oil exploration in the Saint Lawrence.
Care that we have more than two national parties.
Care about house hippos.
Care about the CFL, dammit!
Care about our past before 1867 and care about our future beyond tomorrow. Care about the world beyond our borders and care about the people within them.
Canada wasn’t founded as a complete perfect idea and we can’t congratulate ourselves as if we’re finished. We will never be finished. After 150 years we can congratulate ourselves and each other for trying. The pride we get from being Canadian is equal to the pride we put into being Canadian.
Happy Canada Day, and remember: keep your stick on the ice.