Canada celebrates its 150th birthday today. I can’t decide whether I should head downtown to Parliament Hill for the festivities and fireworks.
I haven’t made the trek for at least 15 years, but had decided that this year I should. The fireworks show will be extra-spectacular given the year, and Bono and The Edge (from U2) are among the featured musical acts. Prince Charles and Camilla will be there too. A record crowd is expected, I read somewhere 450,000, but I can handle a crowd this once.
Or so I thought until I saw the security measures being put into place. Last time I went to any Canada Day festivities you could just walk up the street and onto Parliament Hill like on any other day. Not anymore.
Street closures began Tuesday, as workers set up security screening stations, complete with metal detectors. It looked to me like it could take hours to get through. Do I want to go through that?
Birthdays are such an artificial construct, but them so I guess is a country. The Canada that celebrates today is geographically very different from the country that was birthed by Great Britain in 1867. Different culturally too.
The original Canada was an amalgamation of four very small British colonies who banded together for a number of reasons, not the least one being to counter American aggression. Armed bands of marauders had been crossing the border. While the national motto was a mari usque ad mare (from sea to sea), the only sea in the beginning was the Atlantic Ocean. The Pacific and Arctic oceans were added later.
If Canada were to become a nation today that motto would never be considered. And not just because we now usually say it “from sea to sea to sea” as we acknowledge all three oceans that border our country. The motto would be unacceptable because of its origins: it is from The Bible, and that is not a book that holds much sway in our culture in 2017.
Psalm 72:8 reads “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” The original name for the country was “Dominion of Canada,” an acknowledgement of the supremacy of God. That name was quietly dropped by government in the 1980s to just “Canada,” though officially we are still the Dominion of Canada. I think the dropped word says something about who we have become and what matters to us.
As a nation we have drifted or perhaps deliberately moved away from our Christian heritage. Biblical ideas of Truth and morality are out of fashion in the 21st century as we don’t want anyone telling us what to do. The name of the country and our motto are a reminder of who we were and what we once believed about the world. Perhaps an embarrassing reminder to those steeped in a post-Christian philosophy. If this is a pendulum swing I think it will get worse before the pendulum swings back.
All of which doesn’t answer the question as to whether I should head down to Parliament Hill for the music and the fireworks. Somehow I think it will be a last-minute decision.