The Canadian National holiday, called Canada Day, takes place this coming Saturday, July 1. This year, Canadians celebrate the 150th anniversary of the time they became a semi-autonomous nation called the Dominion of Canada (the designation “Dominion” comes from the Old Testament, as in Psalm 72:8, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”). In 1982, Canada removed the last ties of dependence on the British parliament. The country is still a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, however, and the Queen of England is their head of state. Here are some other facts:
Canada has two official languages, English and French.
It’s the second largest nation by total area. Russia is the first.
The country is rich in resources, both underground and above ground.
Its population is a little more than 35 million people, four million less than California. 82% of Canada’s people live in large or medium-sized cities.
Canada, especially Toronto where I live, consists of a diverse population. I’ve heard people say that Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world. I’ve also heard that more than 50% of Toronto’s people were born in another country, including me.
Canada is known for its long winters, the friendliness of its people, and its strong preference for peace. I like the plaque on the U. S. consulate in Toronto that says in part that no country has ever had a better neighbor than Canada is to the U. S.
Several Canadians have earned international reputations — the singers Celine Dion, Shania Twain, and Justin Bieber; the actors Donald Sutherland and his son Kiefer; the hockey star Wayne Gretzky; the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is the son of the late, illustrious Pierre Trudeau; the late pianist Glenn Gould.
As for politics, electoral democracy is alive and well in Canada, with four main parties in the national parliament and a few members with independent voices.
Canadians have plenty to celebrate this Canada Day. I realized this morning as I was getting ready to go out that holidays like the one coming up give us a chance to think about things we might ordinarily take for granted, for example, that a way of life that provides freedom and enough resources for most people to live decently and where officials make an effort to act fairly is a blessing to cherish and be thankful for. I suspect that most everyone expects Canada’s good fortune to continue.
Still, no community is perfect, and as I move around Toronto on foot or by subway, I’m bound to see people who are hurting for want of the necessities of life — food, shelter, families to love them.
This morning, I saw two people sitting disconsolately on a bench, a teenage male and an older person, possibly his mother, with arms and covered head resting on the handle of a two-wheeled shopping cart, perhaps asleep or lost in not-so-happy thoughts.
While I waited for a traffic light to change color, a man who hadn’t shaved for a few days came to me to ask for money for food. Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much as a dime in my pocket.
I presume that homelessness and extreme poverty are factors in every large community and that it’s common for people to turn away from others’ troubles, especially in times of celebration.
The Canadians designed their system so that people in need can find help. While they reflect on the country’s outstanding success, I hope that Canada’s talented leaders will find ways to relieve the worry and hardship that are frequent sights on the main streets of big cities.
Still, despite shortcomings, the great majority of people I see as I move about Toronto, especially young folks, seem seem healthy, active, and content, a situation worth celebrating occasionally but never to the point of complacency, for extended periods of self-satisfaction corrupt both individuals and communities.
Canadians generally know quite well how to keep on going and zip ahead. I see no sign that they’re on the point of losing their vigor.