This past long weekend, Canadians coast to coast celebrated the 146th anniversary of our nation’s founding.
There is much to celebrate. Earlier this year, Canada was ranked the third-best country to live in by the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD), and we are consistently ranked high in the United Nations’ Human Development Index.
By any yardstick you choose, Canadians enjoy a standard of life far above that of the rest of the world. However, sometimes it seems we don’t realize how good we have it. For the majority of us, our claim to citizenship is merely an accident of birth – we are the lucky few who started life in a society that values peace, education, and public welfare, as well as prosperity.
If you ever want to truly understand how good we have it, talk to one of the seven million Canadians who immigrated from around the world.
For Canada’s immigrants, being a part of this great nation was a choice, one that may have brought some hardship, but also great reward.
Canada has always been an immigrant nation. The first people to settle in what we now know as Canada came not on a boat, but via the Bering Sea land bridge more than 20,000 years ago.
The French and English were the first European immigrants to arrive on our shores in the 1500s. By the late 1800s, Eastern Europeans were recruited to help expand Canada westward across the Prairies. As B.C. established Canada’s presence on the Pacific Rim, so, too, has it opened its doors to Asian immigration.
It hasn’t always been an easy transition, however.
In the past, when cultures clashed in Canada, what resulted was unjust and often violent. And while it is important to celebrate the great achievements of our forefathers each Canada Day, it is equally important to remember the many dark chapters in our history, so that we learn from them and ensure they are never repeated.
Episodes such as the the Chinese head tax, the Komagata Maru incident, the residential school system and the shameful confiscation of property of Japanese-Canadian internees during the Second World War still resound today.
Today, as always, Canada is a nation of immigrants. It is what makes us unique, and what makes us great. Each culture that has come to Canada has brought with it its own customs and traditions, and in so doing, has added to Canadian society and to the Canadian identity.
And we are all the better for it.