Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Celebrate Canada!


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.

9 comments:

  1. Ruth, we had the same celebrations during the summer months in Maryland. It's wonderful to feel the ethnic culture and their own celebrations. I always *loved* the ethnic food that was so plentiful. Happy Canada!

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  2. Wow. That sounds like a lot of fun. I think my daughter would love this festival, too. I'll have to tell her about it... Maybe someday...

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  3. What a wonderful festival. We can all learn so much from one another if we'd only try.

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  4. Ruth, this is fascinating and the pictures wonderful. I'd not been aware of this distinction that Canadians make regarding multi-cultural versus melting pot approach to nation-making.

    The stories of the workers in your hospital are so moving. Just amazing what people go through to improve their lives.

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  5. My DH's hometown has a festival every year, and they represent so many nationalities, I can't even remember them all. I love it...because I can get an authentic gyro there.
    I learned an interesting bit of thinking at a cultural sensitivity seminar: (America) is no longer a melting pot, but a salad. It used to be "assimilate, assimilate" and now we are (trying to) embrace and appreciate other cultures, instead of stirring it all together and forgetting about individuality.

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  6. Mary- Bring on the food, the spicier the better!

    Jennifer- Your daughter was recently in Europe, I believe. Once you travel like that, you get hooked on other culture.

    Jayne- Yes, I wish we could embrace our differences as easily as we embrace our similarities.

    Cathy- I can hardly image the sacrifice some people make to change their futures. I also cannot imagine the horrors some of them have seen before coming here.

    Susan- I am glad to hear that America is becoming a salad bowl. We make frequent trips to NY, MI,and PA, and I am always struck by the cultural uniformity in the areas we visit (mainly shopping districts) It is virtually impossible to find an ethnic restaurant. In our city of 200,000, we have a wide selection of good, authentic ethnic restaurants. I know there have to be places in the USA where other cultures are more visible.

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  7. AAAAUUGH!!!! I MISSED IT THIS YEAR!!!!!!

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  8. I have French-cadadian and Iriquois Indian relatives in Canada that I've never met.-Maybe one of these days.-cool festival.

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  9. becka- there is always next year!

    Larry- You must be part Metis! It was a great festival, not too big, but lots of variety.

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