Each day, my good fortune mystifies me. I can’t believe I was lucky enough to be born in Canada, and to live my life in Saskatchewan. I have known safety, plenty, strength, liberty, peace, and opportunity. Many today have listed the innumerable benefits that Canadians enjoy. My contribution to our national reflection will be my wishes for Canada on her 148th birthday.
1. Look forward. Our ancestors built a strong foundation for us. A lush but unforgiving environment forged a strong people who co-operated to survive, and who solved problems through negotiation. Our role is to move those values forward, to imagine them for the 21st century, just as they did themselves for their era, as original peoples of this land or immigrants. The legacy of our ancestors is a springboard, not a cage.
2. Lead by example. I have always envisioned Canada as a grand experiment in peaceful co-existence. We show the world that peoples from every culture can retain the essence of that culture in Canada and observe at the same time the democratic values of equality and freedom that our ancestors sacrificed so much to enshrine. Our Canadian identity is caught up in ethnicity and respect for difference.
3. Take care of each other. Canadians are generous. We take care of each other. I see my taxes as a partial fulfillment of my responsibiity to provide for people in need, no questions asked. It’s what we do. Let’s treasure that legacy, too, and resist any tempation to veer toward an independentist stance. When we focus on helping each other, we work from a point of view of abundance. We know that we have enough, and we are happy to share with others. Individualism aligns with scarcity.
4. Honour our aboriginal roots. Our bent toward negotiation, consensus, and co-operation evolves from our common aboriginal heritage (see John Ralston Saul, My Fair Country). The First Nations of Canada and our identity as a nation are inextricably linked.
5. Practice stewardship. As a nation, we need to safeguard the environment and practice sustainable resource development. As individuals in that nation, we need to control our consumption, not only to protect the environment, but to ensure that future generations both here and elsewhere can enjoy a comparable lifestyle. Just because we can doesn’t mean we must.
Happy birthday, Canada, from a proud and grateful citizen.