Canada Is

By: pattihenderson

Jul 02 2017

tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Weekend Adventures


Aperture: f/6.3
Focal Length: 12mm
ISO: 400
Shutter: 1/59 sec
Camera: PEN-F

This past Friday afternoon, after my last phone call was made and e-mail sent, I hopped in my car to find a peaceful trail to hike to celebrate the end of another school year. For once it was sunny and hot here on the west coast and a perfect day to stretch the legs and quiet the mind. My route took me to the gorgeous Golden Ears Provincial Park, a short 40 minute drive from my apartment in Coquitlam.

After researching trails in the visitor centre I decided upon The Lower Falls Trail that winds gently through a glowing green rainforest alongside Gold Creek. At the end of the trail, a promise of a water fall. You will see my path in the photo above. All of my senses were delightfully engaged. I could hear birds singing and the cheerful cackling of Gold Creek. I felt the brilliant, warm sun on my bare arms as it dappled through the giant trees. I could actually taste the waterfall at the end of the trail, its cool spray enveloped me like a long-lost friend. And what could I see? My eyes were surprised to find, like in the photo above, tall, tall trees, but also the remnants of even taller trees. Gigantic red cedar stumps towered over the younger new growth, many growing new trees within the stump. The proof of life, ancient and enduring. I was in awe. I felt like a tiny spec in a giant green universe, and I felt lucky to be allowed to witness such beauty. Canada is an amazingly beautiful place, isn’t it?

On this Canada Day weekend, I have been reflecting on what it means to be a Canadian. What it means to live in this country. I have been fortunate. My career in the publishing industry has gifted me with the chance to travel across Canada and experience our generous, awesome landscape and meet many of its people. I have also traveled overseas and across our border and have been graced with the cheerful welcome the Canada flag on my backpack elicits. My experience of Canada has been idyllic much like the song we sang in elementary school as we neared Canada Day each year. Do you remember Roger Whittaker’s Canada Is? In it he sings that Canada is love, faith and peace. The 1974 song captured for me what my experience had been, and we are all a product of our experiences. I grew up in a loving family, the unconditional kind that surrounds you like a warm blanket. I grew up in a household of faith. We Henderson’s went to the Forest United Church each Sunday and sat regularly in the same pew where we learned the importance of faith in an uncertain world. And we grew up in peace. Our farm had a fence line but not a border. We had excellent neighbours and 150 acres to wander, grow, live and love. Idyllic and oh so fortunate!

Not everyone has had this experience. It has taken years for me to learn that there is a broader perspective, a darker past and deep, deep scars of injury to so many people who have lived in Canada. I own a copy of The Truth and Reconciliation Report and I am making my way through this vitally important document. As a student of history, I understand that knowing our past may, may help us to mend the present and protect the future. I am also heartened to read so many thoughtful accounts this Canada Day weekend from friends reflecting on marking Canada 150 and what that means. There is so much work to do! An important conversation has just begun.

I wanted to leave you today with two different accounts from fellow Canadians that make me believe that there is hope for a better future for all Canadians. The first is by recent immigrant to Canada, Idris Elbakri who wrote an opinion piece called “Why I Choose to Celebrate Canada 150 While Acknowledging Our Faults.” Idris writes that after reflecting on what he calls “the fault lines in Canada” he and his family will celebrate but with the commitment that “we will do more.” Here is what more means:

“We will do more. We will attend an event organized by Indigenous activists ¬†and we will replenish our home library with children’s books reflecting Indigenous traditions and stories. Our children will always hear their parents speak of Indigenous people with respect and gratitude.

I will reach out to my Indigenous friends and tell them that they can count on this distant cousin as an ally and a friend. From me, they will not get sympathy, but actionable solidarity.

I also recognize that it is due to their leadership that I and many other Canadians place social justice at the top of our priorities: equitable opportunities for all Canadians, respect for our environment, the safety of women and girls, access to clean water and sanitation and respect for land rights.

On July 1, 2017, my view of Canada will not be limited to the opportunities afforded to me. My Canada includes all parts often unseen and unsung, where there is poverty, substandard housing, water not safe to drink, poor infrastructure, families grieving their girls, mothers and daughters…

My Canada includes those who carry the unshakable burden of history. My Canada includes resurgent peoples who will assert their rightful place in our history, present and future.

My Canada is a work in progress, progress that we all must commit to accelerating so we bridge the fault lines inside our Canadian family.”

The second piece I would like to share with you is from one of my most favourite authors, Richard Wagamese. Richard’s memoirs are some of the most hope-filled, thought-provoking stories of resiliency you will encounter. Despite growing up abandoned by his family who suffered from residential schools and all the hurt that terrible experience brought, Richard shares stories of his past that have helped shape his worldview. A worldview that transformed from a search for identity, to militant protest and finally, through to an understanding that we are all walking on the same sacred ground, sharing our stories and learning how to be better neighbours. In One Story, One Song, published in 2011, Richard writes:

“We don’t need a national day of protest. What we need is a national day of communication. We need to foster human understanding. Native people need to be good neighbours, we need our own leaders to point us in this direction. Let’s lean over the back fence and talk to each other about our lives. Let’s get beyond differences, beyond stereotypes and hear each other’s stories. It’s not hard. As Canadians, we were raised with that small-town, do-a-favour mentality, and all we need to do is remember.”

Clearly there is lots of work to do to make this a Canada we can all be proud to call our home. But the conversation has begun. Let’s keep talking. Sharing. Growing. And…hoping. For me Canada IS hope. And that is a good place to start.