Last week I wrote about anniversaries, and here we are with another one this week. Not only is Canada 155 years old on July 1, but this is the tenth Canada Day Editorial I’ve written since the North Grenville Times began back in 2012. Hard to believe that it’s been that long, and so much has happened in that decade. However, I will not repeat myself after last week’s look back in the past. Instead. Let’s see where we’re at today, and wonder where we’re heading in the future.
Canada Day almost got back to normal this year, except for the loss of the Rotary Canada Day Parade, which is a genuine pity. The parade was part of the day, always a highlight and something the entire community could get great fun from. There is something wonderful about people getting together with friends and neighbours to decorate floats and parade down the streets waving to the crowds that come out to see and cheer them on.
But, although we’ll miss the parade this year, everything seems to be on track to bring back the old days, the Before Times, when we didn’t have to think about masks, keeping together by keeping our distance, and all that kind of thing. Many mask and other mandates are lifting and soon a lot of hopeful politicians will find themselves deprived of a policy platform. Instead of raging against civil rights infringements, they’ll have to find something else to stir up support and votes.
Of course, we’re not really back to what used to be normal: there are so many crises facing the world right now, and challenges ahead to make the bravest shudder. Gas prices, travel congestion, housing costs, food costs, war, and climate change: it makes you wonder what’s next, doesn’t it? But that is where it’s good to have historians around the place (we’re good for something, sometimes). Because we can remind each other that t’was ever thus. No matter how rose-coloured our rear view mirrors may be, the past wasn’t really a Golden Age, or at least it didn’t seem so at the time.
Remember ducking under desks to rehearse for a nuclear attack? There has always been a danger, a threat, perceived or real, that we had to face and challenges we had to overcome. Without them, what would politicians do? But I said this wouldn’t be a look back, and it isn’t. My point is that we learn from the past that Canada has faced many challenges and has come through each time. Perhaps not without scars, but always strong and free.
Confederation itself, as pointed out elsewhere in this issue, was a reaction to threats and a grasping of vision and opportunity that the people of the day probably didn’t expect their leaders to be capable of. People can rise to the occasion when called upon (unless it’s the UK under Bozo Johnson, who… no, I’ll say not more). You know, I don’t think anyone expected very much of Doug Ford when covid hit, but he surprised many of us. Once the real crisis passed, he reverted to type and put a salary cap on the very people he was praising throughout the crisis.
I have said it before, and will continue to say it: we are very blessed to live in this country, for all its faults. There are, of course, areas where we can do much better, and we have the capacity and willingness to change things, once we’re made aware of the need. We make the best of situations, even though we can turn into strangely angry people at times. Truck convoys, for example, are not a thing people would normally associate with Canadians. Sometimes, we get to be wanna-be Americans, but that’s only natural. Most of the time, the rest of the world feels that way too. Most of the time, though not so much in the last few years.
Historically, Canadians defined themselves as not being Americans. But that has changed a lot too. Now, there’s a much stronger sense of Canadian identity, and that may in fact, be partly the result of the challenges we’ve faced when confronting the less attractive parts of our past. Would it be too ridiculous to say that Canada has grown up a lot this century? Perhaps, but I think something has changed.
I suppose it would be easy for me to simply take an Editorial from seven or eight years ago and reprint it this year. Much of what was written then is true today. I am still very grateful for what this country has given me and allowed me to do. I am still impressed by the variety and colourfulness of the land and its people. Our society has many flaws (we’re only human), but there is a genuine decency and generosity at its core, and that is something to value.
So, when someone else writes next year’s Canada Day Editorial, they’ll perhaps find it hard to come up with something new to say about how much we cherish living together in this place. But there will always be new achievements, new opportunities, new challenges too. History doesn’t stop or stand still. Canada continues to grow and adapt to new situations. It has done so for many generations, even before Confederation, before New France, “when the green dark forest was too silent to be real”. This year, we have much to celebrate, not least the freedom to get together once again and mark another national birthday. Let’s sing our songs, wave our flags, greet each other with a smile and a “Happy Canada Day!” as we wear our red and white, eat burgers and hot dogs, drink beer (or what passes for beer in this country), and remember that life goes on, the end is not yet, and we shall continue to overcome. Happy Canada Day.