Over the years, I have been very fortunate in being offered the opportunity to travel across Canada for business as well as for pleasure. Along with that goes the opportunity to experience the beauty of its sights and the pride of its people. From coast to coast, the beauty and majesty of nature through the four seasons is breathtaking to behold.
The people I have met along the way have been warm and welcoming and more than eager to show me the many facets of Canada’s magic up close and sometimes even behind the scenes.
Throughout these travels, I have always been thrilled by the richness in cultural diversity that Canada has to offer, without ever leaving home soil. All one needs to do is put aside their day-to-day routine, open their mind, open their eyes and the new things to see and do are indeed before us, everywhere we look. We are very unique in that we don’t have to go far outside of our respective comfort zones to sample the best the world has to offer, right here in Canada. The fact that we can respect and embrace those differences as part of the fabric of our Canadian flag is purely magnificent. That being said, let us not forget the rich history, heritage and traditions that are uniquely made-in-Canada which when combined, are sometimes the envy of other countries as well. We are most fortunate in having the best of both worlds.
There are brief moments, however, when I secretly wish the stork would have dropped me on another continent, like when a Canadian public figure makes headlines abroad, but not for the right reasons. Also I cringe when I see local government debating issues that have long since been resolved elsewhere in the world and for which standards and best practices exist. We sometimes seem to waste a lot of energy reinventing the wheel, but I guess any “young” country such as ours needs to pursue that journey, even if the conclusion will be the same as the rest of the world.
Similarly, I am disappointed by Canadians who have a hard time thinking in terms of greater good and big picture rather than exclusively “what’s in it for them”. And of course, I sometimes wish I could trade in my passport when we live through a seemingly endless fall-winter-spring of lower than average temperatures and dumping after dumping of snow. We deserve merit badges for winters like 2013-14! I am told it builds character. Yeah… whatever!
But all kidding aside, Canada is by far the best place to live when it comes to one thing: freedom. I am deeply grateful for all of the sacrifices that were made by our forefathers and foremothers to allow all Canadians the opportunity to enjoy the standard of living we have, the benefits we have and to live to be exactly who we want to be.
I have always been a happy, grateful and proud guy, but it is only since coming out as a gay man that these took on new meaning. As a result, my appreciation and gratitude for our freedom grew exponentially. The human rights that we have are indeed the result of tireless work, they are a privilege and definitely something that should not be taken for granted.
The reality is that the battle for human rights (in the broader context, not just gay rights) is still being actively fought throughout the world as long as inequality still exists. Even within Canada, there is still much work to be done. Yet the results achieved to date are indeed remarkable and a huge source of pride. I send heartfelt thanks to all who fought the fight in this regard.
It is because of these freedom fighters that we all have the opportunity to become who we want to be and who we need to be. There will always be differences in opinion on what freedom and equality consist of and how we get there, but the most important thing is to keep the dialogue going.
Let’s face it, there is no perfect place on planet earth and frankly it might get a little hum drum if everyone in Canada agreed on everything. It is clear that my fellow Canadians living in Alberta will have different priorities than my fellow Canadians living in Quebec, just as the issues affecting Canadians on the west coast are different than those affecting Canadians on the east coast. But sometimes it is in those differences that the passion for our respective beliefs shines through, which can become a source of inspiration in itself, if we take the time to notice it and respect it. The sooner we find those common denominators and focus on what unites us rather than what makes us different, the sooner we can build upon our successes that make us the envy of other nations.
For that reason, I propose we all raise a glass (…or forkful of poutine), and extend wishes for a Happy Canada Day everyone!