Well I passed the mid-way point of Canada yesterday just after zipping by Winnipeg. I told my grandchildren that I had passed the bellybutton of Canada. That’s a lot of road time to spend reflecting on all that I’ve seen and read as I travel and research our country.
Any accurate study of Canadian history reveals a less than stellar track record when it comes to treatment of folks who fall outside the Anglo/Franco model of Confederation. You’ll find a brief (and not comprehensive) summary here:
It’s a history most Canadians have not bothered to learn. Then again, as I recall Canadian history was not heavily taught decades ago when I was in high school. Instead we focused on British, American and French history. Hopefully our academic attention to our own history has improved since the ‘60’s.
Folks are also inclined to blame government policy for the dark passages in our history, but that doesn’t explain angry and destructive mobs, prejudice, cruelty, and downright criminal behavior at both the institutional and individual level.
So what’s the answer? I’ve lived in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and BC. I’ve also traversed Canada, this trip and in a 2013 trip from Victoria BC to St John’s Nfld. In my travels I’ve seen such a diversity of geography, weather, industry, and people that I would love to find a way to define our national identity in a way that embraces and celebrates that diversity of land and people. We seem to get all tied up in looking back in anger which to me seems like trying to drive by your rear view mirror. Time to face forward and look to what lies ahead. This doesn’t mean I suggest we paint over or deny our past. There must be a way, however, to acknowledge all we have done wrong as a people and then go forward with a shared vision of a Canada and a Canadian identity that can stand as an example of celebrated diversity for an increasingly conflicted global community. We have, after all, already been held up as a model for the resettlement of Syrian Refugees.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi says Canada as a whole has been a leader in global Syrian resettlement and that’s why he chose to visit here this week. He says he’d like the Canadian government to help other countries roll out programs like the one the Liberals put in place to resettle 25,000 Syrians in a matter of three months.