Today, Canada Day, our country turns 147 years old. How old are you, 21? Wow, you can drink in the United States. You should be proud of your age-related accomplishment, but not as proud as you ought to be of ours. We are older than any living human. We have been able to drink in the United States since before the turn of the 20th century. We have outlasted powerful European empires, weathered the Great Depression, and survived SARS. To what can we attribute our amazing survival?
Simply put, we are a democracy. We are a vibrant, open society in which people have power and the Constitution has always protected the public right to peace, order, and good government. We chose to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. We chose universal healthcare. We chose the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. With our votes, we built the country we enjoy. Today, our democratic ideals and traditions remain as strong as ever.
On Election Day, more than half of us choose to vote. Pretty good eh? Whatever, 60% is a C- at most high schools. What else? When a governing party is found in contempt of Parliament for withholding information that should be made public, we Canadians reward that party with a majority mandate. Really? Yes. I can tell you I know a man who voted for that majority because he didn’t want to have to vote again for four years. That seems lazy and perverse, but let’s give it a chance. What next? When someone or some group uses a political party’s database for purposes of voter suppression, we sit on our hands and no one is punished. Yikes! We lie on our couches and watch TV while Members of Parliament lie about who among us won’t be able to vote in the next election. Cue Dr. Nick Riviera: “Democracy means virtual dictatorship? What a country!”
In light of our apparent lack of interest in the forces that shape our own lives, it is no coincidence that contemporary Canadians employ some of the most entertaining politicians in Canadian (and world) history. Take Tom Mulcair, who spent months demanding that Stephen Harper answer his questions about the Senate scandal, and then proceeded to dodge and half-answer questions about his party’s inappropriate office expenditures. He calls himself a ‘Harper Fighter’. Consider Vic Toews, who famously declared that the opposition was either “with [the government], or with the child pornographers.” He is now a judge in Manitoba, and is eligible for a Supreme Court appointment. Note Justin Trudeau, better known for his last name than for his policies. Remember Rob Ford, who set out to find the gravy train, but instead smoked crack several times, hired felons, uttered death threats, fell over while picking up a football, appeared drunk and disorderly at numerous public events, mentioned cunnilingus at a press conference, tried to lose weight but instead lost his mind, took off for rehab and yesterday returned to seek re-election as Mayor of Toronto. What a bunch of characters!
Here’s the kicker…we chose them! And by choosing them, we chose a direction for our country. Remember the old Canada of peace, order, and good government- the one that chose charters and public policy? Today, Canada chooses tar sand, corruption, a tough stance on declining crime, and more tar sand. That’s not to say we’ve gone south everywhere- Ontario recently elected Canada’s first LGBTQ Premier, and (although they weren’t elected) the Supreme Court just recognized Indigenous land rights even when they might pose challenges for resource extraction projects. But does this mixed bag really call for a big concert on Parliament Hill?
By this point I expect that even the daftest reader has realized that I am not a fan of national days. Who are we, present-day Canadians, to take credit for our country’s historical accomplishments? What have we done to deserve the marvelous gifts we enjoy? Who among us wakes up every morning with a burning desire not just to maintain, but to improve our country for our people? Is it Rob Ford?
Our actions have already determined how our country will look on its 150th birthday, and they will determine Canada’s journey through the 150 years that follow it. What sort of country do you want Canadians to read about in The True North Times in 2167? Think about that. If Canada Day 2014 teaches you one thing, let it be that merely surviving and multiplying is not an accomplishment. Bacteria do that in a petri dish, and we don’t throw them a party on Parliament Hill. It doesn’t matter what parties and politicians you support. What matters is that you demand better of them, and that you issue your demands through action. After all, we are a democracy, so we’re the only ones who can really solve our problems.