Here in the Great White North it is the celebration of creating a nation. The official launch of the experiment called Canada was launched: July 1st, 1867.
Now the reality is nations don’t just arise from spontaneous birth. One day nothing – and the next day BOOM – “look honey it’s a baby country. She will be awesome when she grows up!”
No. Political unions arise out of planned negotiations and random choices. This land was here before it was called the “Dominion of Canada’. This land was here before human’s even existed. This land has a history that begins before those of us who are living ever breathed the air of planet earth; before humans battled each other to lay down a set of values, laws, and government.
This land does not belong to any human, first and foremost it belongs to itself as part of Mother Earth.
I ended up here by accident. My parents fleeing the turmoil of 1956 Hungary, where refugees seeking shelter. Refugees looking for a place where they could top looking over their shoulders. A new home where they could stop worrying that the wrong sentence would get them arrested, imprisoned. Killed.
They had no idea where they were headed when they bundled up their two young children – a daughter about to have her 5th birthday, and their son not even 6-months old. They packed one small suitcase and walked across a frozen river into what was Yugoslavia (now Croatia). They became homeless.
The next 6 months they lived in refugee camps, while other governments made offers for a permanent home. My parents had talked about Belgium, and then the Canadian government offered them a home in Canada. They arrived by ship, landing in Quebec City, Canada in July 1957.
They became sharecroppers on tobacco farms near Barrie, Ontario. Investing in the planting, working the fields, maintaining the buildings and equipment. Learning English from the other immigrants and refugees around them. The promise of an autumn reward making them work hard in the summer heat. Eventually my parents realized there was no pot of gold at the end of the tobacco crop rainbow.
Somewhere in there another son was born. Then I was born on Canadian soil.
My father had always been handy with tools and fixing things. He began working as a handyman, and then as a carpenter. Eventually, in 1964, my parents saved enough to buy a small run-down farm from a local farmer and landowner – Mr. Smalley. He held the mortgage because no bank would give my parents a mortgage back in those days.
My father had a love for the land and tried to be a farmer – raising pigs, chickens, and geese. And it never really worked out. There would a good few years, followed by a horrible year. He had to keep working as a carpenter. He was a good carpenter, and so he became a site foreman for a small construction company. He earned a good wage, but ne was never wealthy. He never had a new car, and our clothes were mostly bought from thrift shops.
My mother stayed home with her 5 children, running the household. Keeping the livestock thriving. Planting massive vegetable gardens that feed us well through the summer, and throughout the winter. She canned the bounty, so that the pantry was always filled with pickles, relish, and canned fruit. I loved her pickled beets, and I have never been able to duplicate the flavour of the ones she made from the beets she grew.
So what is my point? Nothing really. Just a reflection on what it means for me to be here in Canada. This is a nation built on compromise and acceptance. It is a vast and complex thriving community of distinct cultures. This is a country based on a ideal of “peace, order, and good government.”
Mostly that basic vision has been maintained. Yet nothing is ever made; and no lives are ever lived without making some stupid choices. Along the way there were some horrible choices made. There is nothing that can remove the past; it is our choice to be bound by that past. We are here now and we must do better. And we will do better. It just takes time.
This nation is an experiment that is always being refined. What we value today may not be valued tomorrow.
My father taught me that you always do your best with what you have on hand to make things better. My mother taught me that you can only make choices based on what you know today. If you didn’t know something yesterday that you now know today – then admit it. You cannot change yesterday. You cannot guarantee tomorrow. All you can do is be the best you for today.
Happy Dominion Day Canada. You are not a perfect country by any measure. Yet the only truth I know is the world could use more Canada in it. Today was good. Tomorrow can be even better.