As most of you know, Carol and I continue to live in Campbell River even though I am presently serving the people of Comox United. And this past Wednesday, on Canada Day, I decided to go for a bike ride. I have a favourite route that begins across the road from our home in the Beaverlodge Lands and then connects to the ERT which takes me along the west side of CR, eventually ending up just northwest of the downtown. After a short jaunt through the business area, I follow the sea walk to the south end of town and then head up the hill, safe and sound – back home.
The reason I’m sharing this is because Campbell River usually comes alive on Canada Day. After the parade, Osler Park and Spirit Square open up to serve cake, entertain us with bands and sponsor games for the children. Many people pack a lunch to share in the park or avail themselves of one of the many food trucks or other concessions. As sunset approaches, the park fills with people, boats are floating in the Salish Sea and there is a sense of excitement as everyone prepares for Campbell River’s largest annual fireworks display from a barge anchored off shore.
But of course, this year, everything was cancelled! With all the businesses closed for Canada Day, I was riding through a desolate downtown and it brought back memories of Canada Days past with marching bands, floats, laughing children—a community gathering to celebrate the nation that we call home! I think what made it particularly sad were the restaurants that, hoping people would come out, had decorated their outside decks and tables with balloons and flags, but they too were deserted because of the unseasonably cool weather and a brisk breeze off the ocean.
And so, it was with a sense of sadness and maybe even disorientation that I peddled home along the sea walk and contemplated what it meant on this day to be a Canadian, because it really is about more than free cake and fireworks!
Later that evening, CBC was discussing a poll about what was good about being Canadian and the top two answers were that we are an intercultural society and we have a health care system that is accessible to all Canadians.
In these difficult times it is easy to see all the faults in the Canadian fabric and “Black Lives Matter” has emphasized them. However, I see another side of Canadians. We may not be perfect but most of us appreciate all the different people and cultures that make up the Canadian Mosaic. We sometimes stumble but most of us are trying to welcome and incorporate new Canadians into our midst. We have made mistakes with how we dealt with Indigenous people in the past but now we strive to do better, and more importantly, try to understand what it means to be Indigenous in a dominant culture that has different values.
When we look to the south and around the world, we can be thankful with how well Canadians have handled this Pandemic—not just because we had good governance policy but Canadians were compliant and tried their best to isolate. Also, those people who became infected had equal access to the help they needed, so people did come forward to get tested. It wasn’t easy but the virus is clearly on the downswing in Canada.
As a person who has done some travelling and even lived in North Africa, I can’t think of a better place to ride out this pandemic than Vancouver Island. Even at the height of COVID, we had many places where we could get some fresh air and enjoy creation while still maintaining social distancing.
Yes, the economy and looming federal deficit make me nervous. But I also believe that it is the Canadian way that we tried to make sure that all people had the resources that they needed to ride out these difficult times. Typically Canadian, there was room for improvement, but the government tried their best and I didn’t hear wealthy Canadians begrudging the funds that were channelled to Canadians who were struggling.
From a Christian perspective, it gives me hope. The Kingdom of God, the New Humanity that we dream of and Christ commissioned us to work towards is still not here in its fullness, but all around, I see signs of hope that a new world is dawning. It makes me proud to be a Canadian and everyday, I give thanks to know Christ. Amen!