Canada at 150

Tomorrow, July 1, communities from coast to coast will host events to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday.

Last summer we booked rooms in Ottawa for the whole family to take part in festivities in the nation’s capital. Although it will be busy, and perhaps too crowded for our liking, it will be an event that happens but once in a lifetime. 

It will be a whirlwind tour but hopefully will form some memories for three generations of our family who will attend.

The Adsett clan came to Canada before it was officially a country, landing here in 1832 as settlers from England. The drudgery of life there at the time and the promise of the new world gave many living in poverty a chance to better themselves and their families. 

For our sake, it is lucky those ancestors were brave enough to take the risks and emigrate. It was a gamble that paid off.

Fast forward a century and a bit later, the Vreugdenhil family on our mother’s side left Holland after the war in hopes of finding better opportunities for their family.

The experience of our own family isn’t unique. Instead it mirrors the story of tens of thousands of Canadian families who came from somewhere else looking for a fresh start.

Canadians today generally know Canada for what it is: an agreeable blend of urban and rural communities built on natural features that initially attracted pioneers to whatever part of the country they chose.

This holiday is a perfect time to reflect on the indomitable spirit it must have taken to carve out a homestead in the wilderness. 

The task to imagine is easier on the sideroads, where old bank barns and mills still survive, standing as testaments to the determination of our agrarian forbearers. Timbers used to construct buildings of that era provide clues as to the enormity of trees, felled by axe, trimmed by saws and assembled by hand.

Today’s homeowner, familiar with how much work it takes to construct and renovate with today’s tools, should have a grasp of how extremely hard those early years were. 

It’s incredible really what pioneer families accomplished.

On top of developing our built heritage, founding families propagated the notion of representative democracy that has served Canada so well. Today, Canadians of voting age, regardless of gender or creed, can participate in a process that establishes this nation’s future. It is a blessing only wished for by citizens of countries ruled by despots. Freedom is something Canadians often take for granted.

This country’s history has however not been without blemishes. 

Indigenous peoples continue to struggle having a voice within Confederation. The intricacies of this dilemma can be argued at length, but what is without debate is the poor treatment suffered by aboriginals at the hands of organized religion and government over the centuries.

Small steps have been made in recent years to recognize what has often been referred to as cultural genocide in Canada. It remains a dark chapter in the history of this nation. Like most tests of humanity, the greatest obstacle to moving forward is admitting a problem exists. Canada needs to do so much more for its aboriginal people.

There are many tasks ahead in Canada’s coming of age. 

In relative terms our country is still young and it will be up to all Canadians to ensure we stay on a course that offers opportunity, safety and health for all citizens proud to call this land home.

Make the most of Canada’s 150th birthday.