Happy Birthday, Canada!

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As Canada celebrates it’s 150th birthday today, I can’t help but reflect how blessed I am to have been born in such a country.

Canada is a country of amazing diversity. We have oceans (3 of them!), mountains, forests, and wide open prairies. We have an abundance of natural resources and unlike much of the world, we have pure, clean drinking water.

With the exception of our First Nations and Inuit people, we are all descendants of newcomers to this land; people who came dreaming of a better life and who were willing to work hard to achieve it. We still see that in our recent waves of immigrants and refugees. We are truly an international country. In fact, one in five Canadians is foreign born! Learning to live together in spite of our differences isn’t always easy and many people have mixed feelings about topics like immigration and integration, but we pull together when times are tough, we help one another, and we do it with pride because that’s what being Canadian is all about. We are known for ourĀ kindness and generosity, our open mindedness, and our optimism.

According to the 2016 Global Peace Index, Canada ranks among the ten safest countries in the world. Though I don’t think too highly of the man-child that we elected as our present Prime Minister or the policies put forth by his government, I don’t have to look very far beyond our borders to see so much worse.

For me, especially in recent years, one of the greatest benefits of being Canadian is our publicly funded health care. I have absolutely no idea how much my care has cost since I was diagnosed with first one cancer and then another, but I have no doubt that by now I’m a million dollar girl! Amazingly, it hasn’t cost me a cent! Even the money we spend on gas, meals and parking for our many trips to the city for tests, appointments and treatments is tax deductible.

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Our taxes are high. In fact, most Canadians pay close to 50% of their incomes in taxes of one kind or another, but in addition to world class health care, we get a lot for our tax dollars. We tend to take the twelve years of free public education available to every Canadian for granted, not to mention other social programs such as unemployment insurance and old age pensions.

Sure, we do have long, cold winters, but I try not to think about that at this time of year!

Happy Birthday, Canada!

 

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My heart hurts

flag-tower-thMy heart aches today. Two soldiers have been killed on Canadian soil this week. 53-year-old Patrice Vincent, a 28-year veteran of the Canadian Forces, was mowed down by a hit and run driver in a Montreal parking lot on Monday in what appears to have been a deliberate act. Then this morning, 24-year-old Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian Forces reservist, was gunned down while standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Minutes later, shots rang out in the halls of our parliament building where the Prime Minister and his caucus were meeting.

Vincent and Cirillo were not the only ones to lose their lives this week. Two assailants are also dead. 25-year-old Martin “Ahmad” Couture-Rouleau was shot and killed by police following a high-speed chase after he rammed his car into Vincent and another soldier. Couture-Rouleau was known to federal authorities as one who had become radicalized after converting to Islam in 2013. His passport was seized when he attempted to leave the country and travel to Turkey last summer and he was one of 90 people being monitored by the RCMP because they were suspected of being involved in terrorism-related activities. After this morning’s shooting and the assault on Parliament Hill, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a 32-year-old Canadian citizen and also a convert to Islam, was shot dead by House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers, within the walls of Centre Block, our main parliamentary building.

Four men dead. Four families in mourning and a country in shock. Though the scale is miniscule in comparison, I think we, as Canadians, have a better understanding today of how our neighbours to the south must have felt on 9/11. Yes, my heart hurts but I also feel angry; outraged, in fact. The sanctity of our nation has been violated and fear has crept in.

Why did these things happen? Was it because our country dares to stand up for what is right and good? It’s too soon to say for sure and some even call it fear mongering, but it doesn’t seem far fetched to me to assume that these events are directly related to theĀ ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) call for attacks on Canadians made this past Sunday. In response to our country’s involvement in an alliance that has begun mobilizing to defeat ISIS, which has been committing widespread atrocities against Syrians and Iraqis in its attempt to impose a barbaric version of Islamic law in that region, we were told “You will not feel secure in your bedrooms.” Perhaps tonight, that is closer to the truth than ever before. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Couture-Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau were personally directed by ISIS leaders to act as they did but neither do I think that these were simply unrelated acts of lone madmen.

Perhaps the question that looms largest in my mind today is what is it that drives people like Couture-Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau to such radical and violent acts. Were they so marginalized, so far on the fringes of society as to need to latch onto something like the global terrorist bandwagon to find purpose in life? What made them so angry or so cold blooded that they were willing to sacrifice their own lives for a foreign cause? Were they bullied, humiliated, or neglected during their formative years? Definitely something to think about.

 

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