Friday, July 1, 2011

Reflections on Canada

FRIDAY, JULY 1, 2011

There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
Long before the white man and long before the wheel
When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

- From Canadian Railroad Trilogy
Lyrics by Gordon Lightfoot

Today, on the 144th anniversary of our country, I want to express my pride in being a Canadian and my hopes for the future of this great land.  Canada was not born out of revolution, war or bloodshed.  It was born out of the boldness of a dream.  That dream was to create a new dominion from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Arctic to the Great Lakes.

Confederation was an incredible achievement!  To think that such a huge land mass, so geographically and demographically diverse, could be melded into a country is mind-boggling.  Yet, it happened.  It happened because a railroad was built westward to the Pacific Ocean.  It happened because thousands of Chinese labourers toiled relentlessly to build the railway, often in the harshest of weather conditions. 

It came about because of the joint efforts of an anglophone, John A. Macdonald, and a francophone, George-Etienne Cartier. who worked together for a common cause.  That cause was to forge a nation in the northern part of the continent, a nation built on the premise of "peace, order and good government."

Sir John A. Macdonald would be astounded at today's Canada.  His Canada was sparsely populated,  chiefly rural and mainly white.  The majority outside of Quebec was Anglo-Saxon and Protestant.  Although the face of Canada has changed in 144 years, certain things have not.  In 1867, Canada was a land of promise with much to give the world.  In 2011, it remains a land of promise with much to give the world and much it has already given.

Whenever I return from travelling outside of Canada, I have a joyful feeling of returning home and appreciation for my country.  Here are the words of the late Therese Casgrain of Quebec.  She was a Canadian Senator and a strong advocate for women's rights.

I remember once our famous hockey team les Canadiens had just come back from the USSR where they had been playing.  When they arrived in Dorval (now Montreal's Pierre E. Trudeau Airport), some of them bent down and kissed the soil of their wonderful country.  I can well understand, for each time I returned from any far-away trips, I felt exactly the same way.

- Therese Casgrain
From My Canada, Edited by Glenn Keith Cowan

Theree Casgrain was the driving force of the woman's suffrage movement in the province of Quebec.  In 1951, Casgrain became the leader of the Quebec provincial wing of the CCF (The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation), the forerunner of the NDP.  Thus, she has the distinction of being the first female leader of a major political party in Canada.

In 1970, Therese Casgrain was appointed to the Senate of Canada.  She died in Montreal on November 3, 1981 at the age of 85.


PABLUM:  The first ready-to-use baby cereal with vitamins and minerals was invented in 1930 by Dr. Theodore Drake, Dr. Alan Brown and Dr. Frederick Tisdall of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto..  After trying to devise a vitamin biscuit, the doctors came up with the idea of a pre-cooked cereal.  Its name was taken from pabulum, the Greek word for "food."

THE PAINT ROLLER:  Norman Breakey of Toronto invented the paint roller in 1940.  He was unable to find backing for the development of his invention and couldn't even afford to defend the patent from copyright infringement.

* Canada has the longest national highway in the world, the Trans-Canada Highway.  The highway was officially opened on September 3, 1962, although all the sections were not yet completed.  The Ontario section of the highway was not opened until June 28, 1965.

The Trans-Canada Highway crosses the country and stretches 7,821 kilometres (4,860 miles) from St. John's Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia.

Canada is also home to the longest designated street in the world - Yonge Street.  Yonge Street runs north and west from Toronto, Ontario.  The first segment of the street was completed in 1796.  It now officially runs as far as Rainy Rivers at the Ontario-Minnesota border.  It is 1,900.5 kilometres (1,178.3 miles) long.

*  In 1867, the year of Confederation, Canada's population was estimated to be about 3.5 million (Statistics Canada Historical Statistics)  By 1967, Canada's centennial year, the population of the country had grown to 20,378,000 (June 1, 1967 Statistics Canada estimate).  According to Statistics Canada, as of April 1, 2011, Canada's estimated population was 34,349,200. 

From 1867 to 1967, Canada's population grew from about 3.5 million to about 20.4 million.  In the 44 years since 1967, it has already grown from 20.4 million to 34.4 million, an increase of 14 million.


June 28th marked the 30th anniversary of the death of a great Canadian, Terry Fox.  On September 1, 1980, after learning that cancer had spread to his lungs, Terry gave up his cross-Canada run  to raise money for cancer research.  He died on June 28, 1981 at the age of 22.  Canadians will never forget his heroism.  Below is an excerpt from a tribute to Terry.  It was written by another great Canadian, scientist and environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki.

To Terry

We are a self-deprecating people; too often that translates into a sense of inferiority: that if it's Canadian, it can't be first rate; that somehow pride in Canada is dangerous or unsophisticated.

What Terry Fox has made me do is think about the things that make me proud to be Canadian.  No country is without its warts, defects, and stupidities.  But in our self-criticism. we must never forget the solid base of positive features. 

As a third-generation Canadian, I felt the full force of panic, greed, and stupidity during World War II.  I hope that the incarceration of the Japanese Canadians, which was forced upon all of us in my family, will stand as a powerful lesson in the fragility of democratic guarantees.

- David Suzuki
From My Canada, Edited by Glenn Keith Cowan

- Joanne