A tribute to my chosen country: Happy Canada Day, Canada!

As I mentioned in my previous blog, Freedom to choose, most of us make decisions that impact our lives all the time. Sometimes our decisions turn out to be inspired, other times not so much so. Sometimes they turn out to life-changing, other times pretty mundane. As it happens, my decision as a high school senior in the suburbs of NYC to choose McGill over my other options for university (which I called ‘school’ or ‘college’ at the time, in the American vernacular) was both inspired and life-changing. I’ll be honest, I made that choice on a whim. I liked the idea that it wasn’t what people were expecting, that I’d be living was in a big city instead of in a sleepy campus town, and that Montreal had a real winter. Those were the winning criteria for my 17-year old self.

The unanticipated consequence was that, aside from a quality education in an absolutely amazing city (and definitely with real winter), I not only fell in love with the man who became my husband, I fell in love with Canada. And so, in 1972, I became a Canadian citizen. A very proud Canadian citizen. And increasingly proud as the years go by.

Some readers may be surprised to learn that Canada was just starting to come of age when I arrived as a 1st year student (freshman in the American vernacular). Sure, it had been a country independent from Great Britain since 1867, but those ties remained extraordinarily strong for a long, long time. Of course, I wasn’t aware of this when I arrived. Montreal was busily digging up their streets to build the Metro and the city was making its initial moves in preparing for the World Exposition (Expo) to be held there in 1967, Canada’s 100th birthday. But pictures of Queen Elizabeth graced most public buildings, which was definitely not something I had been used to. That has not been the case for a long time, but in 1963 Canada still thought of itself as a dominion of Britain (although not so much in Quebec!). That all changed pretty darn quickly.

In 1965, while I was in my second year at McGill, Canada’s Parliament unveiled its new flag, announcing to the world that Canada would no longer be represented by a flag that featured Britain’s Union Jack in the top left corner, but would proudly wave the Maple Leaf, signaling its emotional independence. Two years later, Montreal – and Canada – welcomed the world to the most popular world exposition known, Expo ’67. It was a glorious coming of age party for Canada.

Canada’s Flag, adopted Feb 15, 1965. Designed by former New Brunswick Lt. Gov. George Stanley

Five years later, I officially became a proud Canadian citizen. I have to say that as the world struggles to defend the most basic of human rights, when empathy seems to have gone missing and all that matters is money and what’s-in-it-for-me attitudes, I am even more proud to be Canadian.

No, Canada is not perfect by a long shot, just ask our indigenous peoples if you need confirmation of that. But at least we keep trying. And, by and large, the majority of our population believes that the greater good is at least as important as individual rights. By and large, the majority of our population believes that the rights of minority groups must be honoured and protected. By and large, the majority of our population understands that to live in a safe, peaceful society, the better off must do their share to help the less well off. That’s one of the responsibilities of living in a civil society. That’s what taxes are for, along with improving infrastructure and supporting the economy, protecting the well-being of all citizens. This is the kind of country I want to live in.

Canada has continued to support its policy of multiculturalism, whereby people’s culture and traditions are acknowledged, respected, and indeed celebrated, along with Canadian values and traditions. This is the kind of country I want to live in.

 

Along with heart, Canada abounds in beauty and geographic diversity. As the chorus of the theme song at Expo 67’s Canadian Pavilion went,

From the Vancouver Island to the Alberta Highland
‘Cross the Prairies, the lakes to Ontario’s towers
From the sound of Mount Royal’s chimes, out to the Maritimes
Something to sing about, this land of ours

And that chorus doesn’t even include one of my favourite parts of Canada, the Arctic. In fact, it doesn’t really include Newfoundland either, when push comes to shove. [As an aside, did you know that this song, Something to Sing About, was a contender for Canada’s National Anthem? O Canada, which was originally written in French for Saint Jean Baptiste Day way back in 1880, only became officially recognized as our National Anthem by Parliament in 1980!]

Admittedly, Canada hasn’t been blessed with many areas that can boast of long summers, but happily I prefer cold weather anyway. The idea of having to keep on gardening past October is too much pressure for me! 😉 Give me 5 – or even more – months of winter anytime. 🙂

Skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. The world’s largest skating rink. So much fun.

And so, as we celebrate Canada’s 151st birthday on July 1, I’d like to say, “Thank you, Canada, for accepting me as one of your citizens. It is something I cherish, nearly every day these days, and never ever take for granted.”

And to everyone reading this, remember, you never know which of all those fairly arbitrary decisions you make, like where you go to university, is going to truly change the direction of your life. May your personal milestone decisions turn out as well as mine did.

Happy birthday, Canada! ❤

Celebrating Canada Day with friends and family. Waterloo, ON

 

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21 Responses to A tribute to my chosen country: Happy Canada Day, Canada!

  1. Pingback: Top posts of 2018 – and top countries for readership | Robby Robin's Journey

  2. I missed this post. It’s wonderful. Thank you for it, and for quoting Trudeau, and for your assertion, which I echo: “Thank you, Canada, for accepting me as one of your citizens. It is something I cherish, nearly every day these days, and never ever take for granted.”

  3. Roy McCarthy says:

    Nice post Jane. It’s far more common to decry one’s country and to blame it for every misfortune. But Canada holds its head high and fights its corner on the world stage while maintaining a courteous stance.

    But no, I’d not fancy the distances and the prolonged winters.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Roy. No, if you had to relocate to Canada you’d probably be happiest with the climate in southern British Columbia. Every region in Canada has its own defined/constrained distances, but except for Prince Edward Island undoubtedly not the very special constrained distances of the Isle of Jersey!

  4. Cheryl Jacobs says:

    Jane, I am personally grateful you chose to attend McGill, and for various other decisions that brought you and How (and at least one other family member) to Fredericton! Happy Canada Day! 😘

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Aww, what a nice comment to read, Cheryl. The feeling’s mutual, as you know. Now that you mention it, both moving to Fredericton and especially choosing to stay in Fredericton were also brilliant life choices. Hmm, I feel another blog post coming on! 😏

  5. barryh says:

    Interesting perspective on Canada, as I’ve never been there…

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Well, there’s lots to visit, and lots of distance involved, needless to say. Having become a sovereign nation without going to war over it, and having become a nation based on recognizing two founding cultures – English and French (which of course should have included our indigenous peoples whose land and cultures were “colonized”) – gave Canada a different starting point from other former British colonies. And we are hugely an immigrant nation, and will continue to be so. Come visit anytime!

  6. smilecalm says:

    happy you’re enjoying
    a better nation
    and its leafy flag 🙂

  7. alesiablogs says:

    I had no idea the Canadian flag was so young!!! Beautiful tribute to an amazing and scenic country. Don’t define the US by our president! There are plenty of us that agree with your sentiments.😁

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Alesia. This post wasn’t intended to be a rant against the US or its president. I lament the rise of populism, tribalism, and shrinking of compassion in many quarters of the western world. And, very sadly, in the US we are having to start to accept that it’s not just the president, who seems to revel in destroying the world order and throwing off as many longtime allies as possible. It’s also what the majority in Congress push through – or not, and now SCOTUS. I can only imagine how difficult this is for the many Americans, including some I know and love well, who yearn for the compassionate, inclusive, welcoming nation I learned about in my youth. There’s a lot of work to do to bring that dream back again. 💕

      • alesiablogs says:

        It is unfortunate that my beautiful country the USA, which many come to call their home has taken a few steps backwards. I am the first to admit this and I too have had lessons to learn through all of America and its changing landscape of “morality”. I personally think the worst thing we do is bring up Roe vs Wade. This has already been settled and if most would get that out of their head-they would see we have much in common. That case alone has broken our country apart and I refuse ( I am pro-life by the way although others may not understand that I can be that way) to allow a case already settled to dictate how I will vote. I have not been placed on this earth to tell any woman or man for that matter what they should do with their body. I am only in charge of me!!! That is a full-time job already! Much love coming your way dear friend!

  8. You have done an excellent job at summarizing Canada. I wish PET could see the Canada we have today. Everything he speaks of is here today. Happy Canada Day!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Fran, I’m so glad you agree. We just have to be vigilant that we don’t take for granted that everyone agrees and that it will always be like this. We have to keep trying to be the best we can be, for all the right reasons.

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