By Gerald V. Paul
“Canada Day is the perfect time for Ontarians to come together and celebrate the ties that connect us all,” said Ontario Minister of Citizenship and International Trade Michael Chan.
“People come to Ontario from all over the world to fulfill their dreams of freedom, hope and opportunity. We each have our own story to tell but we are connected by our love for this country and this province.”
As a veteran full-time Canadian journalist and columnist – the first of Guyanese-Caribbean roots to serve as a member of the Queen’s Park Press Gallery (not a Black-brown media practitioner) – I would like to take this opportunity to say: Thanks Canada! Thanks for the freedom and democracy.
Thanks for the hope and opportunity to build the Rev. Gerald V. Paul Library, contributing to the Garnett Manning Youth and Leadership Foundation among others, as I do this work of faith and labour of love.
Indeed, our democracy is one of the oldest and most mature on the planet, albeit with challenges from time to time. Sometimes I do wonder if Canada missed the memo with regards to Guyana’s Burnham regime of dictatorship and that elections “ti-ti-vating” thing.
As Canadians, we must continue to struggle to ensure freedom and democracy is alive and well. It’s the right thing to do.
So let’s rejoice in the fact Canada is one of the biggest, most bountiful, and most beautiful countries on Earth. Our economy is one of the richest. Let’s do a staycation and simply enjoy the people, the ride and the view.
By the way, thanks Prime Minister Stephen Harper for inviting me to your garden party at your residence in Ottawa. Initially, I did question the validity of the invitation, having spoken truth to power without fear or to curry favour. Say wah, Eyesers, looks like I’m now drinking soup? But allyuh look story, eh, and eh, eh (the latter a Caribbean thing).
Paul Heinbecker, former Canadian ambassador to the UN, said, “Generations of Canadians throughout our history did not accept the limits inherent in pessimism or defeatism, much less realism. Instead they created one of the most respected, prosperous, and successful states on Earth.
“We are a compassionate, capable and progressive people with every chance of doing good and doing well – both if we want to.”
Canadians of Guyanese heritage will recall the words of Dr. Cheddi Jagan, former president of Guyana, who delivered his last speech at York University and authored the seminal book Forbidden Freedom, The Story of British Guyana: “Governments which had planned economies and controlled foreign trade, were dangers to freedom. That freedom of speech and worship were dependent on the free enterprise system.”
Eyesers, according to Canadian market research firm Strategic Counsel, 90% of Canadians believe Canada is the best country in the world, a figure only somewhat higher than the 83% of Americans who accord such approval to their country.
Canadians, on the whole, do believe in a just society with a safety net. As Canadians we believe Canada is making a positive difference in the world in the areas of peace, hunger, the environment, and human rights.
As Canadians our daily lives are enriched by immigrants from literally every other national culture. We value difference and harnessing diversity, respect for minorities and integration of newcomers.
Eyes agrees with Heinbecker: “The challenge for Canadians, as they put the noise on the left and the right out of their mind, it is to hit the golden mean. That means recognizing that Canada does have the influence, the assets, and the skills to succeed in the world and make a positive difference.
“It means manifesting a reasoned confidence in Canada, while not slipping into complacency.”
Finally, it means above all, exercising the will to act.