Monday, July 02, 2007
happy belated canada day
Outside of our nation's capital, Canada Day is a pretty laid back affair. Oh, there are fireworks, free concerts, parties and lots, and lots of backyard barbecues, but it all pales in comparison to the festivities in Ottawa.
My adopted home town is, generally speaking, a pretty staid place. But on Canada Day, the city pulls out all the stops. Tens of thousands descend on Parliament Hill (and dozens of satellite venues) to celebrate and thousands more take the partying to the streets (including the two young clean cut guys I saw casually strolling and sharing a doob, as I sat on my friends' front steps in the heart of downtown - across from a very busy park and mere blocks from the city's main cop shop). Everywhere you look, folks are decked out in red and white (I was wearing blue and grey but that's really all that was clean).
To be perfectly honest, I have always found it to be a little much. I think this comes in part from living so close to a university. Having drunken students littering the streets is one thing, but listening to shouted obscenities at four in the morning and the sound of tomatoes hitting my fence (yes, this has happened) is quite another (I shuddered with horror yesterday afternoon when I realized that the frat boys across the street were drinking from pails, then it occurred to me that twenty years ago, I might have been there, drinking with them, and just as oblivious to my neightbours. I was more alternative-crunchy-granola than frat friendly, but I don't think the more progressive epithets made one whit of difference to our long-suffering neighbours).
And the thing, is, I'm kind of uncomfortable with nationalism (this has been reinforced after 16 years of living with a secular Jew who majored in History at university). So many horrific things, around the world and here at home, have been done in the name of nationhood.
However, I am proud to be Canadian. While we have leagues to go until we match the values we purport to espouse (hello aboriginal poverty, residential schools, the Chinese Head Tax, and the incarceration of Japanese Canadians during WWII, to name just a few things for which we have to atone), this country is a pretty good place to live.
There are many things I appreciate about Canada, some intangible (or at least beyond my ability to articulate at this late hour. I'd start with the fact that we're funny and living next to the giant next door gives us a pretty good sense of perspective) and some more concrete (like good beer, great music, gay marriage and the extra letter we throw into a whole bunch of words). Chief among them, though, is our social safety net. It's somewhat tattered for sure, but it's existence is one of the things that defines us.
Life as a cancer patient has really brought this home for me. There have been glitches along the way for sure but generally speaking, the Canadian health care system has been very good to me.
And I am very grateful indeed that I have never had to chose between chemotherapy and feeding my children.
So this is what I wish for Canada, in it's 141st year - a renewal of our commitment to comprehensive health coverage for every Canadian, regardless of where she or he may live. Oh, and a national pharmacare programme (to ensure that prescription drugs are available to all who need them) is long overdue as well.
Happy birthday, Canada!
May the sangria (red like the flag) flow freely and the barbecues be hot for many years to come.
I had a very good time on your birthday this year.