In 1967, when I was 10-years-old, being proud to be a Canadian was forever embedded in my heart. This was the year of our Centennial and as a young girl I will always remember the pride I felt as I sang the Centennial song, collected the Centennial coin and visited the Centennial caravan. I watched on our black and white TV as special citizens were awarded the Centennial medal to recognize their contributions to our country. And I dreamed of one day visiting Expo 67.
These and many more memories are forever blazoned in my memory and all instilled in me a sense of a country that belonged to its people. One that cared about the arts with the building of the NAC. One that cared about festivals, celebrations, and about music, with entertainment happening around the country and with grants to music organizations everywhere. A country that celebrated its cultures and its people. Our school even had a special fitness program that tested kids and we were given badges to celebrate our participation. I was 10 and was already being told frequently by my family how lucky I was to be here in this country. Our immigrant family had been embraced and welcomed and we were slowly acclimatizing to its weather and its culture. We had nothing, yet we knew by living here we in fact had everything we needed to be able to succeed.
I don't know anyone from my generation who doesn't pick up the refrain when someone starts to sing "Canada, one little, two little, three Canadians....". We were a small country of approx. 25 million people and our land seemed so vast, endless, and full of hope to me. I would watch and listen to CBC on the TV and the radio and hear voices with strange lilts to them coming to us from the East coast, or hear a Québécois person speaking French so beautifully. I would wonder about this land that one day I hoped to be able to visit more of. Back then travel was so different and our family certainly had no means to be able to explore this country. But I wanted to. I knew it was an important place. A land that was bountiful. A people that were accepting. A place where my dreams would come true if I believed in myself and worked hard. A place where colour, race or religion didn't matter. A multicultural country that welcomed immigrants and embraced diversity.
Back then I didn't believe I would live to see our 150th celebration. I think many kids struggle to understand growing older and can't visualize themselves as aging! But I thankfully made it and here I am, 50 years later contemplating the same country but through different eyes. I have watched this year as our governments have done the same thing they did in '67. They help fuel the celebrations of time, and for a country that deserves to be celebrated. I listen now to news that worries me and causes me pause.
But then I think.
I think about that ten-year-old child out there who can experience their first national celebration in a new country. I think about young Canadians who will watch with awe the celebrations and history of our country being told. I remember what it's like to be 10 and full of hope, dreams, and reverence for this land. And I think of how we owe it to them. To the 10-year-old kids out there who will grow up to revere this place and understand how special it is. We must help them to see the future by understanding our past. We must ourselves see this land through their eyes and renew our commitment to preserve, honour, and protect its peaceful and multicultural fabric.
Now I hope I live to see our 200th anniversary. I realize that is highly improbable and very unlikely. But isn't it great to want to see our country continue to grow? Mostly I want to see my grandkids and their kids become proud citizens. People who will protect and understand what has been passed on to them. People who will make it even better. People who will worry about the next 100 years.
Happy Canada Day everyone. May you see this land through young eyes and with a full heart. May you be blessed with generations of gratitude and generosity and peace and love.