When one is asked about the qualities of our country, many things come to mind. Freedom, democracy, universal health care, and a commitment to global peace are all institutions associated with Canada. Another important value, multiculturalism, is also seen as a major benefit to our society.
We really don’t know how good we have it. I can travel into a city like Toronto with my friends and watch a movie made in India, eat Asian food, dance to African music, read books written by South American authors and buy clothing made in Europe. Canada really is a nation of nations. Taking a journey through our country is like seeing the world.
This week, Citizenship Day is being celebrated in Canada. First observed in 1950, it occurs every year in late May on the Friday before Victoria Day. This week we remember Canada’s role in the world, its democracy, history and multiculturalism, and reflect on the rights and privileges we have as Canadians. I also believe it’s a way to welcome and acknowledge those who live in Canada but haven’t become citizens yet. This is their day, too.
Hundreds of thousands of people come to this country every year for a better life. This isn’t to say it’s perfect. There are still many challenges we face as Canadians: environmental harm, child poverty, a troubling economy, and national unity, to name a few.
We also can’t forget that those who come to Canada still struggle through serious challenges. Many immigrants and New Canadians face discrimination in hiring and on the job. Others may not speak English as a first language and have to confront communication barriers. Many who have outstanding education credentials and work experience in their former countries still cannot get recognized by employers in Canada.
Why is it that doctors and medical scientists who come from other countries around the world can’t practice medicine in this country, for example, and have to wait years until their licences are “updated” by our government?
On Citizenship Day, we recognize the enormous benefits that immigrants and New Canadians bring to our country. In fact, it’s almost impossible to imagine what Canada would be today if it wasn’t for immigration. And whereas some say that multiculturalism is about recognizing our differences, it’s really about working and living together in harmony, regardless of who you are or where you are from. That is the real meaning of a free and socially just society and the essence of being a Canadian citizen.
Citizenship Day may not be as popular or celebrated as Victoria Day or other holidays throughout the year. And it doesn’t even come close to many of the national holidays in the United States, which burst with national pride and patriotism. But maybe that’s what being Canadian is about: quietly acknowledging how fortunate we are, humbly celebrating our unique cultures, admitting our errors, and looking forward to a better future for everyone.
“Together We Can Make A Difference”