True North

New Horizons - Crescent Beach, British Columbia

 Serpentine River

Serpentine River

Next week, on July 1st, my native Canada will turning a sprightly 147 years old. For the first time in years, I get to be back on maple-soaked soil for her birthday. This rare occurrence has me pondering exactly what it means to be Canadian... besides the poutine and ski resorts, what makes us such a special country?

Living as an expat and traveling abroad, you get all the cracks; - “How ya doing, EH?!" and "What's that A-Boat?!"…

In addition to these quality zingers, there's a general consensus that it’s incredibly cold here, that we’re all pretty goofy and very apologetic, and that we’re pretty damn good at playing hockey. Generally, all of this is true. But what else? What makes Canada unique and valuable? Why are we the 2nd happiest country on the planet, the most prosperous nation in the Americas, and (according to the global private consulting firm, The Reputation Institute) title-holders of the best reputation in the world?

Here's one Canuck's educated guesses:

 One happy camper - yours truly. (Blue Lake, 2009)

One happy camper - yours truly. (Blue Lake, 2009)

First guess - we’re kind of hilarious. Sometimes, we even mean to be. For whatever reason, Canadians all seem to be born with a terrific sense of humour. And what is life without laughter? Come visit and you’ll be hard pressed to find a Canadian who isn’t eager to share a chuckle or crack you up. Don’t believe me? Check out an old episode of SNL or hit up the latest comedy in theatres. Jim Carrey, Dan Aykroyd, Seth Rogen, Mike Myers and Michael Cera are decent evidence.

The next piece of the puzzle must have something to do with what lay just outside our doorsteps. Canadians are privy to a spectacular amount of the great outdoors. There are fewer people in Canada, the second largest country in the world, than there are in the state of California. That means we have a heck of a lot of space to call our own. That space includes some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. From soaring mountain ranges covered in powder and ice, to the salt-washed cliffs and beaches of the maritimes. It's magnificent. The pictures on the postcards can hardly do it justice. 

Summer. 22:00. Dusk.

 The littlest Canucks.

The littlest Canucks.

Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

Total. Magic.

Lastly, we’re a proud people. Not in a loud way, and not so much so that we’re blind to our many faults, but proud nonetheless.

And why shouldn’t we be?

From donuts and beer to healthcare and equality, we’ve got a lot of things right.

We certainly aren’t afraid to say sorry (about anything. ever.), and we live life with a real sense of gratitude.

We can stitch a maple leaf onto our packs knowing that we’ll be greeted with warmth and hospitality in just about every other country on the planet. We’ve kept our air clean, our milk clean (Google it.), and our hands clean of some very ugly conflicts around the world.


And to top it all off ladies (and gentleman), Ryan Gosling is 100% Canadian.

Oh yea.. 

If you haven’t made the time to come and experience The Great White North yourself, get up here already. We’ll make you feel more welcome than own Grandpappy. And to my Canadian audience, let’s make sure to take some time this Canada Day, and every day, to celebrate all the beauty that lives here at home. We are blessed to be a part of a nation that defines diversity and sets a standard for tolerance and generosity of spirit. We are an example to the global community of what a successful nation can look and feel like. And that is no small feat.

So pour some maple syrup on your pancakes, crack open a Molson, and cheers your puck-loving neighbours, eh? It’s our day. 

Keepers of the peace. 

Ingrained in us.

"Canada is the “what” in “what’s new?”
so don’t say “been there done that”
unless you’ve sat on the sidewalk
while chalk artists draw still lifes
on the concrete of a kid in the street
beatboxing to Neil Young for fun
don’t say you’ve been there done that
unless you’ve been here doing it
let this country be your first-aid kit
for all the times you get sick of the same old same old
let us be the story told to your friends
and when that story ends
leave chapters for the next time you’ll come back
next time pack for all the things
you didn’t pack for the first time
but don’t let your luggage define your travels
each life unravels differently
and experiences are what make up
the colours of our tapestry
we are the true north
strong and free
and what’s more
is that we didn’t just say it
we made it be.”

 -An excerpt from “We Are More” by Canadian slam poet Shane Koyzcan