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Editorial: Canada — a great country develops from many differing backgrounds
July 1 is Canada’s 147th birthday. This country now has a lengthy history as an independent nation.
For most of the past 147 years, Canada has been respectful of other countries and of its wide variety of people, who come from widely disparate backgrounds and traditions.
There are some significant exceptions however, which must be stated up front. Canada has done a generally poor job in maintaining good relations with the aboriginal people who were here before any immigrants came from offshore. For the first 100 years of our independence, there were ongoing efforts to assimilate them, take away their land, unique cultures and heritage, and subjugate them. This was a holdover of the British approach to colonialism, and was actually quite similar to what the British attempted in other parts of the world.
It is only in recent years that more Canadians have started to appreciate the unique perspective that First Nations people bring to this country. Here in B.C., where we have a wide variety of very different First Nations groups, most of whom have no treaties, First Nations issues are front and centre, as was demonstrated on Thursday by a Supreme Court of Canada decision on aboriginal title, brought forward by the Tsilhqot’in Nation.
Thankfully, the relationship in Langley between the community at large and our two First Nations, the Kwantlen and Katzie, is generally positive and is one of mutual respect.
The other blot on our history comes in the treatment of Asians, particularly the Japanese during the Second World War. While there have been apologies and financial settlements, that aspect of our history is a shameful one — as were the discriminatory tactics used to keep out prospective immigrants from China and India.
What Canada does do well, however, is to learn from our past mistakes. This country has always been a grouping of very different people. In 1867, it was the aboriginal people, those of French background, and those of British background, including descendants of former Americans who disagreed with the American Revolution.
Since that time, people came to help populate the wide-open spaces in the country, and they have come from all over the world. At first, most came from Europe and the United States. There were also early settlers of Chinese and Japanese backgrounds. In the past 50 years, the doors have been opened wider for people from all over — although it is still difficult to come here (even as a visitor) from a poorer country, something Canada needs to consider more deeply and thoughtfully.
Together, these diverse peoples have forged a country respectful of religions, traditions and cultures; committed to fight injustices; economically strong and well-positioned — and one of the best places in the world to live.
Happy Birthday, Canada.