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LETTER: Pondering Canada Day's significance

Barrie man, whose parents were Polish refugees, says his Canada 'isn't perfect,' but there are still reasons to celebrate it
2021-06-30 Maple leaf
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I have hung my large Canada flag on the front of my house. My wife and I don’t usually “celebrate” Canada Day, although occasionally we are invited to watch the fireworks over Kempenfelt Bay by friends who have an apartment with a large balcony overlooking the water.

I partly understand people who think we should “cancel” Canada Day this year in recognition of our country’s treatment of Indigenous people. But what purpose would that serve?

I suspect that the overwhelming majority of Canadians are completely unaware of past governments’ involvement in this shameful business. When I was a student, residential “schools” were never mentioned in my Canadian history classes. I really only discovered this missing bit of Canadian history one month ago when I read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report by Murray Sinclair. I strongly recommend for every Canadian to read this document, at least in summary form.

It makes for difficult, unpleasant reading, but that is no reason to shy away from it. Canadians need to know what was done in our name, even though it was sufficiently long ago that few people alive today were involved.

Once you have done that and accepted the fact that many of the problems experienced by our First Nations people stem from these residential schools, we can – as individuals – do whatever we can to repair the damage.

But back to Canada Day. I celebrate the idea of Canada, the country which took in two Polish refugees and their infant son 76 years ago. I celebrate the country that offered my parents the opportunity to make a good life for themselves in exchange for three decades of hard, unrelenting work. 

Canada gave me the opportunity to excel at Montreal’s McGill University, again in exchange for being a diligent student.

That education allowed me to work at a job I loved and earn enough to ensure that our daughters also had an excellent Canadian education.

My Canada isn’t perfect, but after a lifetime of working in five different countries, I can assure you that this country can compare itself to any other without shame. No country is perfect, but on any ranking system (per capita GDP, happiness index, violent crime, etc), we come out in the top 10 – often third or fourth! That’s reason enough to mark Canada Day!

But my favourite way to rank Canada doesn’t depend on any official scheme. Just check the queue of people eager to join us – to become Canadians! Ours is one of the longest.

Peter Bursztyn