City Life

Happy Birthday to a Great Nation

Canada is known around the world for our nature and beauty and even here in my downtown neighbourhood, that is evident.

By Jason Leach
Published July 05, 2006

Sitting in my backyard typing this during the Canada Day long weekend, there is a sense of pride in the air.

Birds of all species continue to pop by and join me before being chased off by another bird. Rabbits, hedgehogs and squirrels all make the neighbourhood rounds. Monarch butterflies float by time and time again, reminding me of the wonderful butterfly project taking place up the street at Strathcona School.

Traffic is much lighter than normal on York, reminding me that much of our downtown infrastructure has been built to accommodate single-occupancy vehicles zooming in from the burbs. If only we could figure out a way to get them to pay for their beloved neighbourhood highways.

Canada isn't an old country, but we are a spectacular one. We are known around the world for our nature and beauty and even here in my downtown neighbourhood, that is evident. Living near the harbour affords all manner of wildlife and fish spotting. It is a common sight in our neighbourhood to see people walking the streets with fishing rods and tackle boxes.

As I gaze across my fence, I see a beautiful Sunday school building on the property of a local church. The 3-story brick building dates back to the 1800's and is framed by several 5-8 story trees.

My neighbours' perennial garden sways in the breeze with a rainbow of colour and scent wafting through the air.

This truly is a great country. We are blessed to call Canada home, as so many newcomers have found out.

On Canada Day itself, a friend and I grabbed lunch at Acclamation Bar and Grill while Portugal beat England to advance in the World Cup tournament. James North became a sea of Portuguese flags and banners mixing in with the Canadian flags on our nation's birthday.

Over at It's Your Festival, several dozen immigrants were sworn in as new Canadians. Folks from all over the world joining you and me in the Great White North.

It is these two things that I think identify Canada more than anything else ­ our people and our place.

This is a stunning country with equally stunning people. Some folks try to use "terrorism" as an argument for ending immigration. This is ridiculous. Without immigration, our nation would not exist. Today, it is immigration that is helping us to remain successful as a nation.

Folks who follow US mainstream media (I don't) are probably under the impression that Canada housed some of the 9-11 attackers in NY. This is not true, but continues to flow out of Washington. Keep in mind, these are the same folks who knew that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq even after being told otherwise by the UN weapons inspectors.

A quick scan of the evening news in any US city will confirm that the constant violence and rising murder rates in that country do not usually involve folks from the Middle East or other new immigrants, but are Americans killing Americans.

Having said that, do I believe that Canada is immune from a home-grown terrorist attack? Of course not. A group of Middle Eastern Canadians was recently arrested under the suspicion of just that.

I'm convinced it will happen, probably soon. Immigration isn't the problem. Most of the folks who will participate in such acts are already among us.

As Hans Blix recently stated, "the US occupation in Iraq is breeding terrorism where it previously didn't exist." He was referring to Iraq, but one could argue that other nations of the world including Canada, Great Britain, Europe and Australia are also seeing this happen in their lands.

It is my hope and prayer that this sort of senseless death doesn't come to our doorstep, but if it does, I believe the strength of the Canadian people will show itself strong.

Perhaps we gain strength from the geography and climate of this great land ­ scorching summers and bitter winters. Perhaps our work ethic is influenced by many of the newcomers who are thrilled to be here and dive in with both hands in search of a better future for themselves and their new neighbourhoods.

Certainly the greatest generation of Canadians deserve to be remembered, not just with tributes, parks, statues or memorial services, but in our day to day lives as we live in perhaps the freest nation on earth.

Peace is certainly a better option than war, but if our freedom is ever threatened, we owe it to ourselves, our veterans and our immigrants to fight for what has made us the envy of the world.

We can dance in the streets with flags from all corners of the globe. We can hike through mountains, ravines and waterfalls from coast to coast. We can quickly escape our cities and pick our own fruits and veggies - as my family did on this holiday weekend at Lindley Farms, a mere 8 minute drive from downtown.

Most of all, we can learn from each other, be good neighbours and all do our part to maintain the greatness of our nation. After all, it's not government, education or technology that make Canada great. It's you and me and our God-given surroundings.

139 years and going strong: Happy birthday to the greatest nation on earth.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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