Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day!

Today, July 1, is Canada Day, the anniversary of the founding of Canada back in 1867. This 143rd birthday for Canada is indeed special. It has been a very eventful year for the country, and now is the time to celebrate Canada and all things Canadian. The highlight of the year so far has certainly been the Vancouver Olympic Games in February. The entire country revealed an enthusiasm and a level of patriotism previously not expressed as well all cheered on our athletes and welcomed the world. The performances fueled this pride, as Canada finished with 14 gold medals, the most for any country in a single Winter Games. The most important of all these medals was the last one, when the men’s Hockey team defeated the United States in overtime to win the gold.

There are parades and celebrations taking place across the country, with the biggest taking place in Ottawa, our nation’s capital. The official ceremonies, which I saw on television, drew a huge crowd, especially since Queen Elizabeth II, officially our sovereign, is on a royal visit to Canada and was in attendance for the event. I realize there are many Canadians as well as citizens of other Commonwealth countries who do not agree with the idea of keeping the monarchy, but I believe that it is good for the country. It gives us a sense of our place in history and is a reminder of tradition in a quickly evolving society.

While the special events in Ottawa were obviously the big draw, one would still expect the events in Montreal, one of Canada’s biggest cities, to still be impressive. Alas, this was not the case. I did attend the Canada Day parade today but was greatly disappointed. First, the crowds were very thin and rather quiet the entire length of the parade route. Many of the participants were not well organized at all, some consisting solely of someone driving a car with small Canadian flags taped to the side and a banner with the name of some organization. I found it very sad, as I have heard that the parade used to be very well attended and quite impressive in years past. Unfortunately at present, the parade receives little government funding and no political leaders, either from Montreal or elsewhere, attend. It is my opinion that this disinterest stems from the political situation in Quebec.

This stems from a separatist movement that has held a great degree of popularity in the province since the mid-1970's when the Parti Quebecois, whose goal is for Quebec to separate from Canada, rose to power in the Provincial Government. Since then, two referendums have been held about Quebec sovereignty, both defeated though the last one in 1995 was very close. Although the current Government is nominally federalist, they are attempting to pander to the francophone majority by heavily restricting the use of English and demanding governmental powers normally reserved for federal control. There is also another holiday, Fete St. Jean-Baptiste or Fete Nationale, which is held one week prior on June 24 that is more popular among the francophone majority in Quebec and draws away much of the attention. As I was originally preparing this post, I wrote a substantial piece about how I believe Canada Day is being diminished and ignored in Quebec and what this has to do with linguistic divisions and other issues, but on review, I found that version to be very harsh and intolerant, as well as too negative in tone for such a joyous day. Instead I decided to wait until today and rewrite from scratch. This way I was able to convey the pride and happiness inherent in Canada Day and to give the holiday its due.

Montreal is still not devoid of Canada Day cheer. As I post this, the fireworks display should be under way at the old port of Montreal, an event which is well attended. Happy Canada Day! Joyeux Fete du Canada!

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