Throughout the election campaign, what caught my eye on many occasions were comments, speeches, letters from Canadians expressing concern that we had lost our way as Canadians. That we had become a nation led by fear, and had become cold and mean, bullies even. That’s not my Canada.
When the Conservative government recommended that the RCMP would start a service where citizens could report “barbaric cultural practices” it confirmed for me we had lost our way, or rather some of us had.
There is an expression, “instead of building higher fences, build longer tables.” Why not have a website where Canadians can share ideas on how they are learning more about their neighbours, learning the whys about different cultural practices, how we can build community, strengthen our neighbourhoods and our country. How we can work together side by side.
“Conservatives are not our enemies, they are our neighbours,” said Justin Trudeau in his election night speech Oct. 19.
Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of Calgary, is himself a son of parents who immigrated here. In a letter to The Globe and Mail Oct. 16, he describes his family’s story (which I paraphrase here): “It’s a very Canadian story of struggle, service, sweat and, ultimately, success. Many Canadians have such an origin story. With each telling, we share in the story of who we are. These stories tell us about when Canada works. And when Canada works, it works better than anywhere.
“At our best, we’ve figured out a simple truth: We’re in this together. Our neighbour’s strength is our strength. The success of any one of us is the success of every one of us. More importantly, any one failure is all our failure, too.
“When Canada works, it is because of that tolerance and respect for pluralism, that generous sharing of opportunity with everyone. It is because of that innate sense that every one of us, regardless of where we come from, what we look like, how we worship or whom we love, deserves the chance right here, right now, to live a great Canadian life.
“That Canada, however, is incredibly fragile, and must be protected from the voices of intolerance, divisiveness and small-mindedness. That Canada must be protected from the voices of hatred.
“And then it means exporting the very best of Canada, that ideal and real Canada, to the rest of the world. Yes, I’m naive to believe we still have something special to share. In my city, we have a program, 3 Things for Calgary, that challenges every citizen to take at least three actions, large or small, using their own passions and resources, to make their community better. Let us start 3 Things for Canada and dare each other to take actions that will build our local, national, and global communities with our true, aspirational Canadian values.”
I like this idea of “3 Things for Canada.” It can be accomplished by all of us, from pre-school children to our elders. We can all make this country even greater than it is.
I suggest we take this idea to our city council and next year on Canada Day have display boards in the park listing or showing photographs of what our citizens did to make this a better city and country.
There are going to be many struggles ahead and this is going to take time. We are a great country, and each government does some good and some lose sight of who they are governing.
Stand tall and proud and remember that we are the lucky ones, Canadians. I believe we are the envy of the world, and together we are better.
Michele Blais has worked with children and families in the North Okanagan for the past 29 years. She is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday.