Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The official celebrations for the anniversary of Canada's Confederation begin in the month of June and end with the Canada Day celebrations on the first of July.
June 21st marks the summer solstice and National Aboriginal Day when First Nations culture is given special recognition.
June 24th is St. Jean Baptiste Day which is a national holiday in Quebec and a celebration of Francophone cultural.
June 27th marks Canada's Multiculturalism Day where we can reflect on the the many peoples and cultures that have come here from around the world to form our nation.
Our city celebrates two of these special days and as I am very interested in other cultures, I try to attend the festivities. How often can you go 5 kilometers from home and visit dozens of nations in one large park?
Aboriginal Day celebrations were geared toward children. Students from local schools read stories and poems about our First Nations people. There were craft and food tables set up, and music and dance performances by various men, women and children. The large Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve is close to our home. I have worked with the residents there as part of my community job. When I am on the reserve, I often feel as if I am in another country. Many aboriginals live marginalized lives for many complex reasons. Their medical problems, particularly with life style illnesses like adult onset diabetes have become endemic. There are bitter land claim disputes in several locations that are causing frustration and anger on both sides because of slow progress in resolution. These problems are found around the world where native people have been displaced and their cultures have not been respected.
The Multicultural Festival ran for two days on the weekend. We visited on both days, mainly because of the delicious variety of ethnic food that was featured.
Freshly prepared meals from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Central America were available to be eaten in hand. Vendors sold goods from many countries and there was ongoing entertainment in the band shell.
Canada embraces multiculturalism rather than a "melting pot" model, where newcomers are encouraged to adapt to the prevailing lifestyle. There are critics of multiculturalism who would want everyone to conform to the "average" Canadian way of life. I have found most of our immigrants to be hard working people who have sacrificed a lot to try a provide a better future for their children. One of our housekeepers at the hospital is a lawyer who is doing a menial job while she works to qualify to work in her field in Canada. She doesn't complain as she labours to achieve her goal.
Another young man who also works in housekeeping left a war torn country in Africa and will likely never see his family again. His name is Justice (I love his name!) and he always has a smile and cheerful greeting when he walks by.
The imposing bronze statue of Queen Victoria towered above the festivities. When her statue was erected by The Daughters of the Empire in 1909, I am sure they never would have envisioned so many different people from around the world in their city's downtown park almost one hundred years later. The world has come here, and from the large crowds that gathered this weekend, I think most people think that is a good thing.