FACE TO FACE: What is great about Canada on Canada Day?
Moments before I began writing this column, I opened an email from the B.C. minister responsible for multiculturalism informing me that June 27 was Multiculturalism Day in our country. As such, it was "a wonderful opportunity to celebrate British Columbia's diverse people and communities."
Funny thing is, that's what I thought today, Canada Day, had already become. In fact, go to any Canada Day festival today and I'm betting at least half the official talk will be about our fabulous multicultural mosaic, our wonderful multicultural music and our delicious multicultural food. Next up, undoubtedly, will be a celebration of Canada's multicultural multiculturalism - a unique brand of multiculturalism that borrows from a variety of multicultural models found throughout the world.
All kidding aside, I've long thought the best Canada Day celebrations have been those that centred on our commonalities, not our diversity. They've been the ones that assumed that everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, age and gender, is interested in roughly the same things.
Most recently, Port Moody's Golden Spike Days, with its high-kicking can-can dancers and its free live music, is a great example of this. A few decades ago, some friends and I even competed in what used to be a festival highlight, the handcar races - and I don't remember anyone asking whether our ancestors came from Ireland, Iran or India.
I suppose my favourite Canada Day memory goes way back to July 1, 1967, when I was working the last leg of a two-day shift as a steward on the Pacific Great Eastern Railway's passenger service from North Vancouver to Prince George and back. It was, of course, Canada's 100th birthday, and the residents of West Vancouver had decided to mark it by lighting bonfires along beaches from Horseshoe Bay to Ambleside.
Standing at the open door of the train's baggage car, I saw hundreds of men, women and children standing around those fires, united in a joyful celebration of the country's centennial.
Some flew our then-new flag, others simply waved and smiled as we trundled by. I was lucky enough to make eye contact with a few and felt in an instant that I had shared an important moment with someone special - a fellow Canadian.
As the anthem says, God save our native land.
An award-winning journalist, a writer with Edmonton's Report Magazine and Toronto's Catholic Insight magazine, and co-host of RoadkillRadio.com, Face to Face columnist Terry O'Neill is a long-time Coquitlam resident who sits on the board of the Coquitlam Foundation and chairs the finance commitee of St. Joseph's Catholic parish.