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Canada 150(ish)


Today is Canada Day. And I love my country. (If you’re reading this via email subscription, then: Yesterday was Canada Day.)

I recognize that not everyone who reads this blog is Canadian. In fact, 50% of my email subscribers and 36% of the users who read this blog on the web are actually from the United States. More Americans subscribe to this blog than Canadians.

But today isn’t your average Canada Day. It’s the sesquicentennial anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Canadians all across the country and world are and will be celebrating. 

The CN Tower will put on a pyrotechnics show this evening at 10:30pm and I’ll be watching. There’s even the world’s largest rubber ducky bobbing around in Lake Ontario. I’m missing the connection on this one, but a 6 storey rubber ducky is definitely worthy of an Instagram post or two. Perhaps we should have gone all out and staged a complete bathtub scene in Toronto’s inner harbor. That would have been fun.

But as much as 150 years of Canada sounds and feels great, I’d like to talk about a different moniker today: Canada 150(ish). And I have two reasons for saying this.

One the most effective ways to explain the difference between Canada and the United States is to talk about how we became independent.

In the U.S. it was a “decisive declaration” leading to war. Americans fought for their independence and July 4, 1776 has become a clear temporal marker. They were dependent before and independent after.

In Canada, our day of independence is less decisive. Instead of complete autonomy, it marks the beginning of a long and gradual process of becoming less and less British, one which arguably didn’t fully conclude until the Canada Act of 1982

So might we call today Canada 35?

One could also argue that this process isn’t fully complete. I don’t know about you, but our lingering connections to Britain – however benign they may be – actually weaken the Canadian story for me.

The second reason why I’m throwing out Canada 150(ish) is because I want to acknowledge the fact that there are people in this country who feel excluded from the solidarity that “Canada 150″ is trying to instil. Here is an excerpt from a New Yorker essay by Molly Worthen that was published early this morning:

Of course, the story of Confederation is largely a story of white men who mostly spoke English. This summer, the few Canadians who are eager to talk about history and reexamine the details of their constitution are those who feel excluded from the standard narrative of Canadian unity and progress: indigenous people and Francophone Québécois.

Now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, I’m going to get on with celebrating Canada 150 and this incredible place of democracy and opportunity. And for all of the Americans who read this blog, happy 4th of July.

Photo by Harry Sandhu on Unsplash

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