Tuesday, June 30, 2009

O Canada!

Somewhere between the dignified celebration of Canada Day and the rah-rah revelry of the Fourth of July, comes the realization that Canadians are simply too darn understated when it comes to celebrating what's so wonderful about our country.

O, Canada.

This year, more than ever, I am reminded that we live in the greatest country in the world. A recent trip through the Canadian Rockies, and the return flight over most of Central Canada was a breath-taking reminder of the vastness and beauty of this county.

Our home and native land.

My Mom and Dad were both immigrants from England. Because of their desire to learn everything they could about their new home, I was fortunate enough to travel from sea to shining sea (and many places in between) by the time I was ten. My father was a traveling salesman and he would organize his long trips around school holidays and summer vacations so that we could travel along with him. We traveled up to the start of the Alaska Highway, and explored the mighty Peace River country.

We drove through the Rockies while the Rogers Pass was being blasted out ahead of us. Every time we'd have to stop while road crews dynamited the next section of the highway, my father's old Meteor would overheat. While my siblings and I gave the universal chant, "Are we there yet, Daddy?", my father would unbuckle one of the canvas water bags roped to the grill of the car, and fill up the radiator.

We dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean one year and in the Atlantic Ocean two summers later. In-between, we drove the endless expanse of the prairies and learned about the Canadian Shield first hand by traveling through Northern Ontario. Years later I even had a chance to visit the northern shore of Baffin Island, again thanks to my father's endless curiosity and his desire to share this great land with his children.

The true north, strong and free.

I didn't realize it at the time, but what my parents gave me during all those long road trips was a profound love for this country - and a true sense of how enormous it really is. Air travel and superhighways may have made traveling across this country faster and easier, but there's nothing like seeing it from the backseat of a '63 Meteor, to really make you appreciate how big Canada is.

From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

We are so privileged. We have plentiful resources; bountiful supplies of fresh water, fresh air and more trees than anyone could ever count. We have mountains, foothills, and endless plains of wheat. We have oceans - three of them, to be precise - and a collection of lakes so big we call them Great. We have the rocky shoal of Newfoundland, and the evergreen beauties of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. By simply visiting Quebec we can experience the flare and charm of Europe without ever leaving home.

We have a rich history, and a promising future. We also have two official languages, many wonderful cultures and religions and the freedom to express ourselves in any one way please.

God keep our land, glorious and free.

So thanks, again, Mom and Dad, for caring enough to teach me a deep and profound love for this country.

Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


The Dominion Institute was established in 1997 by a group of young people concerned about the erosion of a common memory in Canada. Its mission is to build active and informed citizens through greater knowledge and appreciation of the Canadian story. The Institute’s programs fall under three themes: memory, democracy and identity.

Earlier this month, The Institute released its History Report Card, a curriculum analysis of high schools in Canada. For more information, check out www.dominion.ca.

If you want to brush up on your Canadian facts and figures, visit Statistics Canada.

For information about our natural environment, including weather updates, visit Canada's Green Lane.

Mike Ford (formerly of Moxy Früvous) is the great Canadian troubadour. His Canada in Song project is a musical exploration of the history, land and peoples of Canada. For more information about Mike’s music and his curriculum based performances, check out www.mikeford.ca.


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