July 1 marks a country-wide celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation. In 1867 the four colonies of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia decided in Charlottetown to form one country, called Canada. It has since expanded to 10 provinces and three territories.
Instead of our major anniversaries being a cause for celebration, however, the cracks in our union become more obvious.
In the 1967 centennial year, the major crack was the French-English controversy. Some Quebeckers demanded recognition as a distinct society and a sovereign state. The Parti Québécois government held two failed referendums, in 1980 and 1995, on provincial sovereignty. Quebec refused to sign the Constitution Act 1982 which patriated the British North America Act. It gave the Parliament of Canada full powers to amend the Constitution. The 1982 Constitution also introduced the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On the 150th anniversary, the crack that has become more pronounced is that caused by the federal government’s treatment of the indigenous peoples. This has been highlighted by the Indian residential school debate and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report of 2015, calling for a process of reconciliation and recognition of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.
When we celebrate Canada and what unites us and what can make us all proud, we should not neglect acknowledging the physical land we live in.
In 1759 Voltaire wrote this description of Canada: “You realize that these two countries (France and England) have been fighting over a few acres of snow in Canada, and they are spending on this splendid struggle more than Canada itself is worth.”
Voltaire’s remark is one of the best-known descriptions of early Canada. While written more than a century before Confederation, his view was shared by many high-ranking French government officials. Voltaire’s unflattering assessment of Canada was in sharp contrast to an alternate vision from fellow philosophers Montaigne and Rousseau who romanticized the garden paradise and natural goodness found in the New World.
Our land is something that connects all Canadians, even though many have not travelled its breadth and width. It is a vast land, full of riches. It is a land that God has blessed generously.
One hundred and fifty years ago, the Atlantic Ocean was overflowing with cod, so much so that fishers could scoop them out of the water with baskets.
The Prairie region had millions of buffalo, which provided for all the needs of the indigenous peoples. Beavers were abundant and valued both by the indigenous people and by European traders.
Canada has an abundance of mineral wealth, including potash, oil, uranium and diamonds. These are the products of thousands of years of history, including ice ages and climate changes. Today they provide a livelihood for many Canadian citizens. The Great Lakes and the Canadian Shield are unique features of the country.
Canada has an abundance of natural beauty. Visitors are attracted by such natural wonders as Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains. The vast Prairies have their own unique beauty and attraction. We have forests and national parks that provide quiet zones for citizens living in crowded and noisy cities.
Canada has rivers and lakes in abundance. While Minnesota can boast of being the land of 10,000 lakes, Saskatchewan alone has around 100,000 — and we don’t even boast about it.
Canada has the Arctic and the challenges of living in a cold and dark land — and 24-hour days and nights. But it also has a beauty its inhabitants cherish.
Canada has the northern lights which astound us both from earth and from space. Visitors come from afar to view them, and pray that the unscheduled lights appear during their visit.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes the supremacy of God. As we celebrate Canada Day, we can be grateful to God for how he has blessed our land.