Canada Day—More than a Day Off

I almost took Canada Day for granted. Like many other Canadians, I was starting to think of it simply as another day off.

That is until I received an email from my good friend Ian Hill. Although well known within the 140 plus communities across Canada where his philanthropic efforts focused on supporting local leaders to build playgrounds and skateboard parks, he was actually born in Iran and adopted as a newborn by an American couple stationed there. He was raised in Arizona and now lives in Nevada.

In the email he sent on Canada Day, Ian wrote, “In the 145 years since Confederation, Canada has been able to carve the North American wilderness into one of the most successful societies on the planet. Canada is known for its abundance of natural resources and the beauty of its land, but its true greatness and strength lies in its people. Today, let’s celebrate the wonder that is Canada, its strength and beauty, and let us commit ourselves to the ideals of love, tolerance, equality of opportunity, and peace that makes Canada a Beacon of Hope to the World!”

Just to reiterate, that was an email written by an American about Canada!

Ian has also said more than once that his work and travels across Canada have made him a better man. He attributes the Canadians he met as contributing to him becoming a better business and community leader, husband, father, and friend.

Over the years, he and his family have even given serious consideration to moving here.

In many ways he is not unlike many of the hundreds and thousands of new arrivals who have come to Canada as the result of seeing its promise and possibilities.

My own grandparents came to Canada from the Ukraine because the land my grandfather had inherited from his father was one seventh of the original plot. The other six portions went to his six siblings. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough land to support my grandparents. It was, however, just enough money to purchase two boat tickets to Canada.

When they came to Canada they had no choice as to where they would live. At the time of their arrival, Manitoba needed farmers, so Manitoba it was. They worked hard, raised a family and contributed to their communities first in Manitoba and then in St. Catharines.

Immigrants like my own grandparents are the foundation of Canada. In addition to contributing to our rich culture, they typically worked hard and long at jobs other Canadians couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do—clearing and farming the land, building railways, and even dangerous work like digging the Welland Canal in Niagara. Today, given Canada’s aging baby boomers, newcomers are also playing an increasingly important role in addressing our lack of skilled workers.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of newcomers—speaking many languages and with diverse skills and abilities—risk everything to come to Canada. They bring with them the motivation and the drive to make a better life for themselves and their families.

Ultimately Canada is the better for it, because when they succeed, we all succeed. And, that’s something worth celebrating each and every Canada Day.

Posted on 07-01-12

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