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THE VIEW FROM HERE: On being a Canadian

In just a few days, Canada will celebrate another birthday. I hope you all enjoy your time off and if you have to work, I hope you still manage to find a way to celebrate the birth of our great nation.

Each year, Canadians take advantage of the holiday to kick back and relax by the pool, take a trip to the cottage or maybe visit the beach, hold a barbecue or perhaps take in some of the celebrations that are traditionally held in communities across the nation.

Food, fireworks and fun are the top priorities on Canada Day, but July 1 isn’t just about a day off from work. Nor is it just a time to relax or to frolic. Indeed, it is also a day to celebrate the birth of one of the best countries in the world.

As Canadians, we take a great deal for granted, but each year as we’re enjoying the festivities we should also pause and take stock of the things that make this country so great. In light of what is happening right now in other parts of world, we should pause and reflect upon the freedoms and rights we enjoy.

We may complain about the governments we elect — and most of us certainly do our fair share of that — but it’s because we live in a country where freedom of speech is guaranteed through our democracy that we enjoy the right to criticize the people we elect to represent us.

Furthermore, it’s because we live in a democratic society that we even get to elect our governments in the first place, but please don’t take that right for granted. You should do your duty by voting in every election and at every level, including municipal, provincial and federal. What has taken generations to build up could be torn down before our very eyes if we’re not careful and if we’re not mindful of whom we elect.

But while voting for our government is paramount to our democracy and freedom of choice is an essential pillar of our society, there’s more to being a Canadian than exercising that right. Every year as Canada Day approaches, I like to take the opportunity to think about what it means to be a Canadian and here’s what I’ve come up with.

Being Canadian means we have the freedom to speak up for the things we believe in or the things we don’t like, regardless if it’s counter to the ruling government and we can do that without fear of reprisal or impunity.

Being Canadian means that even if we disagree with what someone else is saying we will defend their right to say it (unless it’s spreading words of hatred and intolerance).

Being Canadian means we can choose whatever profession or career we wish without someone else telling us what we’re going to do.

Being Canadian means our children are not required to join the military when they reach a certain age.

Being Canadian means we have reasonable access to a free and an adequate education up to Grade 12.

Being Canadian means we can access health care when we are ill. Even if the system is not without flaws and we sometimes have to wait, it is still one of the best in the world.

Being Canadian means we can freely travel throughout this great country with ease.

Being Canadian means we can live anywhere in this great nation that we choose to live.

Being Canadian means we can travel to any part of the world we wish to travel without the government telling us we can’t leave the country.

Being Canadian means we have the right to assemble and the right to protest. We even have the right to protest our government’s actions without being imprisoned or, maybe even killed.

Being Canadian means we have the freedom to practice whatever religion we believe in.

Being Canadian means we support equal rights for all nationalities.

Being Canadian means that we prefer peace before force to settle disputes.

Being Canadian means that we will freely lend a hand to our neighbours in their time of need both in this country and beyond our borders.

Being Canadian means we get to bask in the varied and vast natural beauty that is this great country.

Being Canadian means we coexist in a melting pot of varied cultures.

Being Canadian means we get to elect our government every four or five years.

Being Canadian means we get to support the party and candidate of our choice and we have the right to keep that vote a secret.

Being Canadian means we get to run for elected office if we choose.

Being Canadian means that if you are female you don’t have to fear for your life or fear of being mutilated just because of your gender.

Being Canadian means we expect fair and swift justice for all.

Being Canadian means we believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Being Canadian means that we embrace our heritage and work to preserve it for the benefit of future generations.

Being Canadian means we revere hockey almost as if it’s a religion.

Being Canadian means our many national symbols including the maple leaf, the RCMP, the beaver and our flag instil us with pride.

Being Canadian means that in striving to be a tolerant society, we reject discrimination based on race, colour, age, ability, gender or sexual orientation.

Being Canadian means that we can send our children outside to play in the yard without fear of them being shot or send them off to school knowing that a bomb won’t drop from the sky and level the building.

Being Canadian means that I get to express these thoughts and feelings in writing every week in this space without fear of reprisal or repercussion, and that’s the view from here.

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