July 1, 2016, marks the 149th birthday of Canada. Canadians can rejoice in knowing that they live in a country built on respect, diversity, acceptance, and compassion. These ideas are in Canadian history. They are embedded in the hearts and minds of every Canadian whether an immigrant, a First Nations person, or someone born in Canada.
Canadians respect differing opinions, and expect politicians to do the same. Respect for your opposition is done without hesitation in Canada. Even at the end of a playoff series in hockey, after players have pummelled each other for seven games, they still shake hands as a sign of respect. That shows how much respect is valued in Canada.
Canadians are accepting and proud of the country’s diversity. Nothing shows this more than the widespread support for bringing in 25 000 Syrian refugees. Communities accepted them with open arms and open hearts.
But perhaps nothing is more emblematic of our acceptance of diversity than the fact that we have two official languages that have withstood referendums, crises, and heated debates. That Canada has stayed together with two official languages for 149 years shows its true nature of respect and diversity.
Canada has not always been the perfect country, having made mistakes along the way. These most notably include residential schools, Japanese internment during World War Two, and the October Crisis in 1970.
But what makes this nation so great, at least in my eyes, is that we have acknowledged our mistakes and have sought to ensure that they don’t happen again.
The federal government has apologized for the residential school treatment of First Nations people and has sought to improve relations through the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.
In addressing the internment of Japanese-Canadians, Prime Minister Mulroney delivered an official apology in 1988. He gave financial retributions to each survivor, gave $12 million to National Association of Japanese-Canadians, and $24 million for the establishment of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
On a much larger and longer lasting scale, teaching of this social injustice has since been taught in public schools. There is a Memorial Internment Centre in British Columbia to honour the history of those interned.
The French-English debate continues, but Canadians have done their best to remedy a centuries-long tension. We can have hope that we will continue to improve the relations between English and French Canada, because, after all, we are all Canadians.
Canada has been, is, and will continue to be, a great country.
There is no country that I would rather call home.