Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Happy Birthday, Canada!

Barbara here. Today is a day for unabashed, unapologetic sap. For today is July 1st, the day set aside to celebrate the creation of my country one hundred and forty-eight years ago. Canada Day is marked across the country by fireworks, parties, and musical extravaganzas big and small. In Ottawa, there is a day-long concert of music representing the many strands that make up the cultural mosaic of the country, crowned by a gorgeous display of fireworks against the backdrop of the spires of Parliament Hill. It is a truly fabulous spectacle. When my children were young, I made a point of bringing them to see the fireworks and share with the throngs who crammed the green lawns in front of Parliament.

When I was a child, in the long-dissipated mists of time, the day was called Dominion Day, and my parents used to bring my sister, brother, and me to a much more modest display of fireworks in our own town hall square in Town of Mount Royal, in Montreal. I recall sitting on the grass being alternately awe-struck and terrified by the noisy cannon-blasts.

Tonight, I will be sharing Canada Day in yet another venue- the concert and fireworks display put on by the village of Sharbot Lake, where I have a cottage. Instead of battling the throngs to get even a glimpse of the fireworks on Parliament Hill and contending with impossibly crowded buses afterwards as everyone tries to leave at once, I will bring my blanket and sit on the public beach overlooking the lake, and watch the fireworks being set off by local volunteers on the helicopter pad next to the medical centre. The beautiful displays will burst into colour right overhead and shower reds and blues and greens down over the lake, drawing oohs and ahs from all of us on the beach. The bay will sparkle with the red and white lights of boats that have come from all over the lake to park offshore for the best view.

It's a day to put writing and business aside and celebrate the extraordinary privilege of calling this country home. In so many parts of the world, writers live in peril, driven underground or into exile if they dare to criticize the society in which they live. I grew up in the time of the Iron Curtain, when some of Eastern Europe's best writers were either in the gulag, in hiding... or dead. This is still the case in many parts of the world. In the book I am currently writing, I have one of my characters, a journalist who has covered global conflicts, say "God, I love Canada. It feels great to be able to piss off the police and not get my head chopped off."

It's that elemental. Today I acknowledge the freedom I have to write what I want and not fear the knock on the door. Yes, there may be an internet outcry or even a tense visit from the RCMP, but we have laws and rights and due process standing between us and the guillotine. Let us cherish that, and guard it fiercely, lest by our blindness and apathy, we let it slip away.


Elizabeth Lindsay said...

Thank you for putting into words so many of my own sentiments. Happy Canada Barbara and long may Canada stand!

Vicki Delany said...

Here here.

Mario Acevedo said...

Happy Birthday to you Canadians. Don't party so hard you lose your heads.

Sybil Johnson said...

Happy Canada Day!

Rick Blechta said...

I feel very strongly about my adopted country, but I do have to take exception to one statement in your post, Barbara.

"God, I love Canada. It feels great to be able to piss off the police and not get my head chopped off."

Obviously, you weren't in Toronto for the G20 summit. What happened was unbelievable. There's a lot to love here, but there is also reason to fear for what we have.