Canada isn't the Constitution or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as vital as those documents are. It isn't Parliament or the Supreme Court, the prime minister or the opposition. Nor is it our flag, our Queen or her representative, the governor-general. And it certainly is not our national social programs, such as health care or fiscal federalism, even though we are frequently informed those give us our unique national identity. Critical though our institutions and laws are to preserving our heritage of democracy and freedom, they are not what makes this a great country. It's we Canadians ourselves who do that.
Canada Day should be a celebration of us.
Canada is parents huddled against the cold in an under-heated hockey rink well before a December dawn warming themselves over a cup of Tim's coffee -- double-double, of course. (Indeed, "double-double" is itself such a uniquely Canadian neologism it appears in dictionaries here, but only here.)
It's a Thursday afternoon mixed seniors curling league. It's snowboarders carving a halfpipe at Whistler or aerial skiers pounding moguls in the Laurentians. It's the way we are passionately loyal each to our own NHL teams all season, and the way we put those rivalries aside to cheer as one nation for the last Canadian team in the playoffs -- unless you are a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.
Canada is an East Coast fishermen braving 10-metre waves in a 10-metre boat and an Alberta rancher riding blind through a late-season blizzard in the foothills to rescue a cow and her newborn calf. It's a commuter sitting patiently on a bus bound for downtown Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, and a new Canadian struggling to master one of our official languages so he or she can get a better job and provide a better life for his or her family.
It's teachers, nurses and social workers doing their best each day to bring vital services to the public, Inuit hunters in Nunavut, loggers and mill workers in the B.C. interior and small farmers looking heavenward for a sign of rain (or a sign of when the rain will let up).
Canada exists as much in the cabanes a sucre and red fall maple forests of Quebec, the vast Canadian Shield and the fishing camps of the North as it does in the BNA Act and the latest communique by first ministers. It's in our universities, churches, malls and office towers. And, of course, it is present in our more than 600 First Nations communities and in the mission of our Armed Forces half a world away in Afghanistan. Happy Canada Day!