This weekend we Meafordites will join our fellow countrymen and women in celebrating this fine nation of ours during Canada Day festivities.
While I've never considered myself to be an overly patriotic person, I have bounced around this beautiful blue ball we call home, and I can say with certainty that there's nowhere else I would rather live. With Canada Day approaching I've been thinking about some of the things I love about this country as well as some of the things that drive me nuts.
Atop the list of things I love about Canada and being Canadian is most certainly the beautiful land itself. In my nearly half century I have had the good fortune to live in three of our provinces – Ontario of course, as well as northern Manitoba when I was a child, and the Fraser Valley region of British Columbia in the '90s. No matter where I have lived in this country, there have been beautiful natural landscapes right outside my back door. Whether it be the mountains in the west, or the lakes in Manitoba, or the Georgian Bay region where I have resided for the past dozen or more years, with its forests and farmland along with its stunning shorelines, you really can't beat Canada for its clean, natural beauty.
Another thing to love about Canada is of course our universal healthcare system. Sure there are always complaints of one sort or another, but speaking as someone who has been battling a number of issues on the health front over the past five years, it sure is comforting to know that our healthcare system is there for us, and it isn't under the control of big business. The funny thing about our pride in our healthcare system is that we really aren't much different from most industrialized countries. We hear a lot in the news from our neighbours to the south about their lack of a universal healthcare system, and in fact there are many in America without any healthcare access or coverage at all. So we Canadians can often be smug when discussing healthcare as it is an area where we have clearly topped our American friends, but the reality is that most of the industrialized world has a universal healthcare system of some sort, and many of them are reportedly better than our own. So yes, I appreciate and value our healthcare system, and I realize that compared to some other countries it could be better but I will stick with smug and be satisfied that at the very least we are light years ahead of America when it comes to healthcare.
I am also very appreciative of our freedom and our privileges here in Canada. Note that I didn't say 'rights'. I know it ruffles some feathers, but I don't believe that we truly have any rights, and what many think of as rights are in fact just privileges. If a 'right' is granted by someone else, and if it can be taken away, then it isn't a right at all, it is a privilege. We might think we have voting 'rights' but governments can change rules should they desire, not that I think our voting privileges are in any danger, but nothing in any society is actually etched in stone. That said, I value our privileges in this country. We have a freedom to travel within our borders without having to produce our papers at checkpoints, we have a solid, transparent, and effective electoral process (though proportional representation would be a nice improvement), and we have the ability to protest and hold our governments accountable. There are a lot of places on this planet where none of those privileges are offered to citizens, so indeed I treasure our privileges.
While I could go on about things I love about Canada, compiling a list of things that drive me nuts about our country is a little more challenging, and most of what irks me is admittedly petty and largely immaterial.
For example, we're not all hockey fans. Back in the days when I was regularly on foreign soil I was often confronted with the assumption that because I am Canadian, I must be a huge hockey fan. It was often one of the first topics mentioned by Americans trying to impress me with their knowledge of Canada, and I recall being dragged to a professional hockey game in Russia because of course the Canadian would love to sit in a cold arena surrounded by a bunch of inebriated Russians. I don't like beer or poutine either – wait, maybe I'm not Canadian at all!
Whatever you love about Canada, and whatever you don't love so much, it is hard to make a case that we'd be better off anywhere else, and there are many places around the world that can't say the same. So celebrate Canada, celebrate being Canadian – it is certainly worth celebrating.