House Call with Carol Hughes

Canada Day is special no matter the circumstances

It’s sure to be a Canada Day like no other this year. With limitations on gatherings as a back drop, we won’t be able to come together in the usual fashion. Many mainstays of community celebrations such as parades, concerts, barbecues and public firework shows will give way to more informal and much smaller celebrations. With fewer options available, the differences will be stark, but Canadians will find numerous ways to mark the day and make it memorable.

While some things seem to be the same forever, change is the real constant. Canada is no different and the nation we celebrate is very different than the one that people cheered for on the first Canada Day in 1982. That’s the year that Dominion Day was re-branded to match our updated circumstances and status. In the hundred plus years that Dominion Day was marked, Canada had changed significantly. In 1982, having just repatriated our constitution a few months earlier, replacing Dominion Day made sense.

Since then, the grand celebrations on Parliament Hill have grown to become an institution in their own right. The big stage is used to show-case talent from across the country and there are numerous greetings from Canadian luminaries throughout the day. The crescendo comes with a fireworks display that has few rivals. The event is carried live on television and radio and connects us across the country. This year’s broadcast will take place in two stages culminating in a virtual firework display. While these might not match the excitement and sensory grandness of a live concert or firework display, we can enjoy them knowing that we are making the best of a difficult situation.

Locally, we can anticipate a lot of activity at the street level as barbecues and family gatherings take over. The rush to get somewhere will be removed, replaced by the ability to enjoy the day at a leisurely pace. In some ways, it will match the circumstances perfectly.

Among the many benefits of our efforts to limit the effects of the pandemic is a pace of living which many had pined for, some without even recognizing it. In these slower times it is easier to reflect and enjoy simpler, but potentially more rewarding things. The resurgence in baking and knitting are great examples. While both activities had been regaining popularity for years, the pandemic has been like rocket fuel for that phenomenon. Similarly, we’ve never seen so many immaculate yards as homes become bustling zones of activity. The old refrain of, ‘if I had more time’ has been put aside for the short term. Many are considering how much of the hustle and bustle they care to return to as a by-product of that.

Before the pandemic we were living in a world of instant gratification but turning a blind eye to the worst consequences of that behaviour. We had increasingly ceded environmental and societal protections for economic growth with many negative outcomes. With any luck, we will recognize and mitigate some of these consequences as we reopen and reinvent ourselves.

That is one of the good things Canada Day. It allows us to take stock and consider where we are going along with where we are and how we got here. Having reached a defining point in history, not just for Canada, but the entire world, we can use this opportunity to look into the future a little more critically to ensure the country we build coming out of the pandemic meets our needs in a  way that makes sense for more people. The confluence of the pandemic and calls for racial justice offer an immediate focus point and we would be well served to consider how much further we are willing to push the limits of what nature will tolerate as well. These are the conversations I hope will be taking place across this country on July 1 and into the foreseeable future.

Happy Canada Day!