Canada’s Birthday and a Reflection of Our Reflection

written by andrew

bubbles, lawn, fence

We have a lot of clients in the United States and overseas. Tomorrow, Manoverboard will be closed for Canada Day, a holiday which should not only be a time for celebration, but a time for reflection.

Canada Day is Momentous

The day recognizes the British North American Act of 1867 which officially combined three Canadian provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada, which later became Ontario and Quebec) into one country. However, the holiday did not become official until 1982 when the Canadian constitution was formally patriated and some of the vestiges of British power or influence were removed. That means that while the country is almost 150 years old, Canada Day itself is just entering middle age!

The holiday is recognized as a statutory holiday. But not all local governments and communities agree on a set standard for the celebration. In the capital, Ottawa, the day will be filled with live entertainment and family-friendly activities from Parliament Hill to the museums and city parks.

In Winnipeg, most of the festivities will take place at The Forks, a public market with quirky farmers’ markets, restaurants, musical celebrations, and a river walk. There will be three performance stages with live entertainment and family events throughout the day. Of course, the grand finale will be a fireworks display.

But Reflection is the Other Side of the Canada Day Coin

However, you choose to celebrate, Canada Day is a good day to reflect on how much Canada has achieved as a country and how much there is still to do.

Many countries view our health system as a model to follow. However, we continue to see relatively high mortality outcomes for diabetes and cancer. Manitoba has a very high rate of cases of multiple sclerosis and Canada consistently ranks too high.

In terms of technical innovation, Canada has produced the Blackberry, which changed the face of mobile computing. Today, we have Hootsuite and Shopify pointing the way forward. However, the Conference Board of Canada gives the country overall a D in innovation: “Despite a decade or so of innovation agendas and prosperity reports, Canada remains near the bottom of its peer group on innovation, ranking 13th among the 16 peer countries.” We desperately need an infusion of human and financial capital to fuel research and development, especially around high value-added services and goods — and to contribute on the global stage.

Where we as a country truly excel are in the areas of education and human rights. However, our record with the Aboriginal community over the past 100 years has been nothing less than atrocious. If you have chance, please read the recently released findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling the Future. The report starts, startlingly, like this:

For over a century, the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and, through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as ‘cultural genocide.’

While the country’s environmental record has improved in some key areas such as clean electricity and strong stewardship of water and forest resources, there is much to do in improving emission and waste reduction. We continue to strip Alberta’s oil sands as if the release of that carbon from the ground was a net benefit to our globe. Canada also produces massive amounts of municipal waste. The Conference Board again: “Canada produced 777 kg per capita of municipal waste in 2008, twice as much as the best performer, Japan.” We need to start diverting our waste to recycling, reuse, and compost.

Canadians are blessed with a beautiful country full of abundant resources. Let’s all celebrate Canada Day with a renewed commitment to protecting and cherishing all that this great land has to offer.

[Source: If you would like to learn more about how Canada compares to other industrialized countries, please have a look at The Conference Board of Canada website. Also, photo credit: my daughter.]

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