Canada is the land regained from the icy glaciers that receded thousands of years ago. The magnificent landscapes and waterways of our beloved country are the product of that great shift in climate. It was that same shift that allowed indigenous people to make their homes in Canada – there will always be a great debate about exactly how that happened, but there is no question that the attachment to the land by first peoples dates back millennia, “from time immemorial”.
We share this reality, that the land, water and air were here before all of us. Canada Day is a chance both to celebrate this undeniable truth, and at the same time to regain the understanding that sustaining Turtle Island, leaving it even stronger and healthier than we found it, is our first obligation. It is one we are not, at this point, meeting. So we have work to do.
The First Nations’ relationship to the land was based very much on stewardship, on the deep knowledge that is was here before us and will be here after us. This is the prevailing ethic that was lost on contact with cultures that convinced themselves that their ways of believing and acting could remake the world in their image. Untold damage has been to both the environment and First Nations because of the endurance of these beliefs.
We can trace so many of our current challenges as a country and a world to our lingering inability to treat both the earth and our neighbours with respect and humility. The failure to recognize the difference between those that things that endure and those that come and go with fashion is still something to behold.
We have learned the extent to which we are in the world and the world is in us. Our remarkable diversity has become our hallmark and our common identity. This has happened in a little more than half a decade, it presents us with ongoing challenges. One for thing for certain, we can take nothing for granted. We have to earn our success every day.
We live in a world where some of the lessons we have had to learn are not shared widely enough. We are in the midst of the worst refugee crisis in modern times, where ethnic and racial conflict are more intense than at any point since the Second World War. Those who point out progress, more wealth, better health and longevity, are right, but none of this should give rise to complacency.
The idea of constitutional democracy, where the will of the people is always framed in the firm of the rule of law and human rights, is more challenged today than ever before. We take pride in the Charter of Rights and Freedons, and rightly so, but we need constantly to reaffirm that order alone is not enough. Not only in what we say but what we do.
A Happy Canada Day to all. May be continue to be worthy of our immense good fortune.