I’m old. How old am I? I’m old enough to remember when being a Canadian was something to be proud of.
Growing up, I could see that I lived in a peaceful, prosperous country, one that was noted for its generous provisions for the poor and the ailing, and for its contributions to fighting bad guys abroad. Every November 11 we quietly remembered those we lost fighting the Kaiser, the Nazis, Communist aggressors, ethnic warlords, and assorted jihadis. We didn’t boast about our warlike nature and always cut back on our armed forces when our battles were over.
We were glad that we lived in a country that could produce Terry Fox, Rick Hansen, Rocket Richard, Nelly McClung, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Leonard Cohen, the Friendly Giant and Mr. Dress-Up. The guy we voted our “Greatest Canadian” wasn’t a conquering general; he was an immigrant who invented Medicare. We loved reminding Americans that we invented basketball, hockey, the telephone, the radio, peanut butter, insulin, and the zipper. We knew the CFL was more exciting than the NFL and the Robertson screwdriver was superior to the Philips.
When I travelled abroad, foreigners told me they envied my Canadian passport. They knew I lived in a great country that welcomed newcomers and they wanted to know how they could become a Canadian too.
Then something happened. We began to be told that we should be ashamed of Canada. What had we done? We had long since stopped clubbing baby seals, so it must be something really serious. Was it Justin Bieber? Pineapple on pizza? No, politicians were beginning to issue apologies for things in the distant past, for long-ago misdeeds in which no living Canadian had had a hand. Our nation, a refuge for millions fleeing religious, racial, or political oppression, was now deemed to be “systemically racist.”
Our national banners were lowered to half-mast; trigger warnings were put on little flags handed out to school kids. Museums were cleansed of exhibits that drew attention to our colonial or pioneer eras. Great figures from the past were found to have fallen short of modern sensibilities; they had their names sandblasted off buildings and their portraits removed from the public eye. Mobs tore down their statues while police stood by watching.
The notion of equal citizenship began to be eroded. Some of us were marked down as privileged, natural-born oppressors while others, based on innate markers of race, sex, or gender, were deemed to be natural victims, worthy of money, jobs, scholarships, and opportunities denied to the others. Not a few found it helpful to construct a fake racial background.
So, Canada Day draws nigh but we Winnipeggers are told not to indulge in celebration. Forget the fireworks; Despite the misgivings of Lloyd Axworthy and mayoral candidate Jenny Moktaluk…” it’s a “New Day” to be spent in acknowledging “the anger and hurt indigenous communities are feeling”. We should spend July 1 listening to painful stories and “building understanding”.
Do you know what I would like to see for Canada Day? I would like to experience an entire day without an apology from a politician for my country. I would like to see broadcasters telling tales about our glorious past, splendid present, and sparkling future. I want to hear stories about what made Canada the place that millions want to migrate to. I want our kids to experience a single day of pride, free from the message that they live in a racist genocidal hell-hole of which they ought to be ashamed.
And I want fireworks.
Gerry Bowler, a Canadian historian, is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy