Reflections on the Meaning of Canada Day

Every year, on July 1, we Canadians celebrate and reflect upon what it means to be Canadian. 

No society is monolithic, and Canada is no exception. 

Each of us approaches this day in her own way, influenced by individual experiences of what it means to be Canadian.

I am a child of two Greek immigrants. My mother and father came to this country in the 1950s. Along with many other immigrants from Southern Europe, my parents were encouraged to come to Canada by the government of the day.

My parents arrived in Halifax by ship, with no high school education, no wealth and little capacity to speak English. Their world-view was shaped by having lived through the Great Depression, then a brutal Nazi occupation of Greece and a terrible civil war.

As a child of impoverished immigrants, I deeply appreciate the opportunities Canada's government has conferred upon my family and millions of other immigrants. To this very day, our diversity remains our greatest strength.

Among many other features of Canadian life, we ought also to celebrate our national healthcare system, our protection of free speech and our Charter of Rights of Freedoms.

At the same time, we must not allow our appreciation of all that is good in our country to distract us from its failings.

Canada remains a colonial enterprise under which Indigenous peoples and other racialized communities suffer immensely. We have yet to honour the promise of reconciliation and to deal effectively with systemic racism within our justice system.

Despite the vast wealth of this country, tens of thousands of Canadians sleep in our streets on any given night, while millions live in poverty. The richest 1% control as much wealth as the poorest 80%.

And on the international stage, our government continues to pay lip-service to the "rules-based international order" while immunizing our 'allies' from accountability for their violations of international law and human rights. For the second time running, Canada just lost another bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, revealing the degree to which our global standing has deteriorated under the Harper and Trudeau governments.

And so, while we have much to celebrate, we have much work to do to perfect our democracy and ensure that the reality of Canadian life accords with the lofty rhetoric of our elected representatives.

On Canada Day 2020, let us resolve to make the Canadian dream a reality for all.  —Dimitri

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