My dear and long suffering reader, July 1 is a special day for many people around the world. In Singapore for example today is Armed Forces Day. Pakistan marks this day as Children’s Day. The country of Burundi celebrates its independence on July 1. In Australia and New Zealand, today marks international Tartan Day, which makes for a colourful holiday to be sure. And of course, we must not forget that July 1 is also Creative Ice Cream Flavours Day, so now’s the time to break out that Zucchini Almond Ripple recipe you’ve been dying to try.

As I myself hail from Canadia-Land, today is also the day when we mark the birthday of this big glorious mess we call home. At 152 years of age, (though truthfully, she doesn’t look a day over 110) this country of mine is as beautiful as ever, from the 49th parallel to the arctic circle, from the Left Coast to the Far East.

You may be forgiven dear reader, for assuming that the remainder of this missive will be a jingoistic cavalcade of everything that makes Canadia-Land the Greatest Country on Earth. Indeed, there is much to be proud of, and I will outline a few of the more interesting ones in a moment. However, I think it’s important to avoid the glossing-over that often occurs on days such as this. In our noble attempts to focus on the positive, we forget that the negative offers a much-needed contrast (not to mention a solid kick in our collective self-approbation and vaingloriousness). Our achievements deserve to be celebrated to be sure, but our flaws must not be ignored. They require attention as well, especially if we truly wish to address them.

The simple truth is, we as a nation have made many mistakes and will likely make many more. We’ve treated our indigenous brothers and sisters shamefully, and struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with the embarrassment of environmental riches with which we’ve been blessed. Racism, sexism and violence are an issue here as they are in many other places in the world. Any temptation to smugness when watching the antics of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-And-Will-Only-Be-Called-President-When-He-Acts-Like-One-Dammit below the 49th parallel must be tempered with the knowledge that we’re equally capable of such behaviour. Stone throwing, glass houses and all that.

Truthfully, the Big Wide Open has far to go to live up to the utopias envisioned by poets and dreamers. That said, this remains my country and my home, and living here means I play an active role in making it a better place in whatever small way I can. From voting and the way I interact with my natural environment, to the way in which I treat my fellow citizens, my actions (and inactions) are an important part of the tapestry that is this True North Strong and Free(zing).

We can see the most glaring issues, and we know what needs to be done to address them. What remains now, is the willingness to do so.

Allow me now to share some interesting (and true) factoids about this amazing country of mine:

  • Canadians consume more macaroni and cheese than any other nation on Earth. There’s a reason the box says, “Kraft Dinner” here and “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese” everywhere else.
  • Canada was invaded by America in 1775 and in 1812. They failed both times. Just saying.
  • In 2015, a Canadian man tied 100 balloons to a garden chair and flew over the city of Calgary. We’ll get our frequent flier points anyway we can.
  • There is a town in the province of Newfoundland called “Dildo,” and it’s not far from a place called, “Spread Eagle.” Yes, really.
  • Canada has a strategic maple syrup reserve in case of emergencies. Priorities kids, priorities.
  • Canadians invented the electric wheelchair, IMAX, Trivial Pursuit, the baseball glove and the Tilley hat. You’re welcome.
  • There is a municipality in the province of Québec called “Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!” Because reasons.
  • Canadian kids can write to Santa at the North Pole (postal code: H0H 0H0) AND GET A REPLY. Deal with it.
  • Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Gosling. Consider them an apology for Justin Bieber.

My carbon-based compadres, our world seems more tumultuous and divisive than ever before. Whatever this day means for you, whether it’s filled with tartan, independence celebrations or weird ice cream flavours, I hope that it points you to a better future.

In the meantime… Happy 152nd birthday! I am Canadian. Je suis Canadien. Loud and proud!

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