Canada is a paradise. That’s what I thought when we came here. Empty streets, clean pee-free sidewalks, trees and more trees, and cool grass under the tootsies. Most amazing of all, everyone had a car!
That was my childhood impression. As I grew up, I noticed other differences. Racism infected my Canadian schoolmates and society in general, but it was nothing as invasive as in India where there was always a reason to look down upon or despise “others” whoever the “others” were. Canada’s weather was marvellous, ranging from soft white flakes that fell from the sky to Bombay-like weather to the amazing glory of trees turning red and gold in the Fall. And then in the spring, all this growth starting anew in concert with the crack of the bat. And yet…
Education is revered in India, but here it’s despised as if learning is a way to take childhood away from children, with ne’er the thought that children by necessity learn everyday, otherwise how would they leave diapers behind, learn to speak, learn to share, learn to work with others, and on and on and on. Children love to learn; it’s innate. It’s adults who hate it. Yet in the current information and knowledge revolution, it’s the country that reveres education and learning that’s going to prosper. And yet…
Those Canadians who came before us did not relish living in the stone age; they worked hard and long to build a modern, prosperous nation out of dark forests and raging waterways.
I wonder what drove them? For it seems to me that that gushing desire to create, to build has melted into a puddle of complacency.
I discovered part of the answer when I travelled north, way north. Canada’s spirit lives in its wilderness. We here in Toronto can get glimpses of it in our deep, leafy ravines and the wildness of Lake Ontario on a stormy day. But one must travel to the northern territories to more than just feel it. Seeing the young mountains of the Yukon, experiencing chicken lunch time in a small store in a small place on the one road snaking north, marvelling at a forest burnt down 50 years ago with nary a new growth yet to be seen, boggling at the rigorous hike men and a few women endured to get to Dawson City while gazing upon the river churning nearby, imagining that river flowing into all the large and small waters that bless our land, all that and more makes you feel the deep, dangerous heart of Canada, a heart that beats for her people yet expects much.
That heart must’ve been what drove our ancestors to tame pockets of wilderness into cities, to ambitiously build a railroad from coast to coast, to declare that the 20th century belongs to Canada, to forge a national identity on bloody battlefields, to imagine and build places like Chalk River, to create a social safety net that alleviated so much worry, to bring the Constitution home, to aver that we are strong and mature enough to handle free trade. Our past leaders always dreamt big for us, visions almost as vast as our north, and we’d follow them, cheering and kicking and screaming but never slowing them down. Their courage, their persistence, their imagination built us a paradise.
I wish all my fellow Canadians a happy day in Paradise!!