About 148 years ago our very own Founding Fathers, or as they have come to be known, “The Fathers of Confederation” made a decision with royal ascent from her Royal Majesty Queen Victoria, that three former British colonies would form into our first ever provinces, into what was known as the Dominion of Canada. Both at Charlottetown and Quebec City the fate of a nation built on British conservatism, but undoubtedly colonial ruggedness came into being. A nation which a great deal of us would imagine stuck somewhere between the British and American world, part of neither one, but similar in a great deal of many things. Neither British, nor North American, rather uniquely Canadian.
Thirty-six original men all over the colonies of Canada amalgamated throughout a series of conferences to finally decide the union of one Canadian Dominion. Yet, throughout Canada’s history with the addition of every new province into the Dominion, other “Fathers” came to light, as we all know the story of Joey Smallwood and his role in the Confederation of Newfoundland in 1949. Canada has always been in the process of becoming.
Parades, concerts, activities, and family get-togethers are all an important part of July 1st. Yet, as Canada is celebrating its paramount birthday it is equally important to see past the representations of colors and anthems, and understand the true importance of this great nation. Namely its values. The ones that make us to love it dearly, as Canadians.
The values of democracy, liberty, and the right to pursue one’s happiness outside the paradigms of overly-libertarian politics. Things have moved slowly throughout Canadian history, and it was never without fault or fortitude, yet things moved invariably for the better with each passing generation. Although this might seem as a teleological no-no, as some historians may argue, the truth of the matter is that Canada 100 years ago, is not the Canada we know today.
Yet, the love for this nation, its people and values, for me personally runs much deeper than a a mere emotional spark at the the sight of our flag, or that of the Queen in the few classrooms where her portrait still remains. No, the source of pride comes undoubtedly from the fact that this country opened its doors to me and has given me that which very few in the world have: opportunity.
The words that make up our nation “From Sea to Sea”- Mari usque ad Mare- is not in fact only a representation of the physical grandeur that Canada holds, but also the metaphorical one. Throughout the English-Speaking world there has never been a country rooted in such balance in all of its existence, and rooted in a continuous preponderance of the values of respect, tolerance, and understanding.
The things that lead me to a sense of indisputable pride when I was awarded my citizenship is that suddenly I was given the opportunity not to participate into a collective, rather to be an individual. A membership to a club unlike any of this world, one where I learned to uphold loyalty towards ‘Queen and country.’ Beyond my time at school as a child, I would study Canadian history and customs at home. The thought of understanding the histories of all the people that inhabited Canada in the past- Indigenous, European, Asian and even Vikings at some point, brought a great deal of excitement into my world.
Later on as a historian I stopped mythologizing Canadian history and began to reanalyze it with open eyes. When I looked at the struggles of the Indigenous, those of the immigrants of Asian ancestry, and many other black stains on the great Canadian canvass, I began to understand that Canada was never a perfect nation, yet I knew the drudgery of Eastern Europe, where my family lived in ways and national conditions that would seem unthinkable to any Canadian. Although Canada does not have a clean track record, when we compare it to the places where its immigrants came from, it is difficult not to see why so many came in droves wishing to escape their mother countries.
Surprisingly, at times even for me, it pays off to see the perspective of immigrants, as they usually love this country wholly for what it is, at times many do not. The ones however that do will tell you, as I would that there is no better place to live. Despite all of the festivities that bring joy to our hearts today, it is absolutely necessary that every Canadian informs himself or herself on their nation’s history, and the people that have come before us and have built everything we see around us. For without them we would not have a reason to celebrate this July 1st. Without their struggles from the days of the colonies to the Canada Act of 1982, all of the values that we uphold today might have been different. July 1st is not just about celebration, but it is also about being thankful that we live in such a great nation.