BY WAYNE STETSKI
Visitors to Parliament Hill waited for up to four hours in sometimes torrential rain storms to be part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations July 1, 2017. For many people the main attractions were performances by Alessia Cara, Dean Brody (who is from Jaffray!), Bono and Edge, Gordon Lightfoot, Serena Ryder, Marie Mai, Walk Off the Earth, Cirque du Soleil, and many more. At times the flooded lawns reminded those of us with a rock and roll past of the mud scenes from Woodstock, but hey, we’re Canadian eh, so everyone stayed respectfully attired!
There is much to celebrate about Canada. We are a country that welcomes diversity, multiculturalism and inclusivity. We are a country that encourages everyone to be who they are, so long as it doesn’t involve hate or oppression. We celebrate peace and yes, we are extremely polite and proud of it! You can make new friends standing in line for four hours and many people who were interviewed after the event talked about strengthening family bonds and meeting new people. That is so Canadian – making the best of every moment and looking for the up side of potentially trying times.
While there is much to celebrate there is much more work ahead of us in truly focussing on reconciliation with Indigenous people. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Governor General David Johnston and even Prince Charles, who attended the opening ceremony with his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, all spoke to the need for Canada to work towards building a new nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous people in a true spirit of reconciliation.
When I started school I lived in Chesterfield Inlet located about 500 km north of Churchill on Hudson’s Bay. My older brother Greg and I attended the residential school – all of our classmates were Inuit. We got to go home every night to be with our mom and dad. My classmates only got to see their families at Christmas and in the summer time. Even as a young child I knew that not being able to go home to your family when you are five years old was wrong, the concept of residential schools was wrong. So I understood why a teepee was erected in protest on parliament hill for the Canada Day celebrations and I felt blessed when a First Nation’s woman walked directly past me burning sweet grass and sending some of the cleansing smoke in my direction waving an eagle feather.
On June 30 I attended a reception for 150 Youth from across Canada who were sponsored to come to Ottawa for a week to learn from one another, listen to motivational speakers and to be part of the Canada Day celebrations. What a delight it was to spend two hours talking with and encouraging these young leaders that they can make a difference in Canada’s future. It was an experience of a lifetime for them, culminating in being centre stage during the opening ceremonies, dancing, waving Canadian Flags and releasing coloured smoke bombs! We all need to encourage our youth to care about the kind of country we want to be in the future.
There is something unique about being in our nation’s capital for Canada Day celebrating July 1 with an estimated half a million Canadians, including constituents from Kootenay-Columbia. I hope you took the opportunity to participate in the 150th birthday celebrations this last weekend – there is much to be thankful for in being a Canadian and living in the best country in the world!