On Thursday, July 1, it's Canada Day, the one day of the year when we Canadians allow ourselves to speak our patriotism out loud. This is the day we celebrate July 1, 1867 when our country was formed as a nation.
I have realized over the years that the citizens of even our closest neighbour, the U.S.A, don't really know much about Canada.
Canada is a vast country-- 5000 miles from coast to coast. Our land mass is huge, but our population is only about 31,000,000 people. About 90 per cent of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border. Further north it is much less populated, but here in Ontario, there a many huge national parks and lakes, and in the summer many people head "up north" to cottage country, where it's cooler and not so crowded.
It's a beautiful country, with many leafy trees as well as fir trees. The country is very diverse, culturally, geographically and with regard to the weather.
I live in Southern Ontario, in a city that was built beside Lake Ontario. I live an hour away from Toronto in one direction and Niagara Falls in another. It takes only about an hour to get to the U.S. border from where I live. Where I live is actually south of many U.S. cities. In fact, it's further south of the entire states of Minnesota, Washington, North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, and most of Idaho and Oregon.
While we are officially a bilingual country, in reality, relatively few English speaking people speak French fluently. We do take French class in school, until High School after which it becomes optional. Unless one is immersed in a French community, it is not easy to learn French just from classes at school.
I had an American friend who thought that I, living in Canada, lived close to Alaska. In fact, it would be about a 4000 mile car journey to Juneau, Alaska, which is one of the closest Alaskan cities to my home.
Which brings us to the weather. Like most of the northern U.S., we have 4 distinct seasons. Also like the U.S., the weather has a lot to do with geography. We didn't experience very much snow this past winter, and the temperature rarely went much below the freezing mark. We have lovely springs and autumns, where I live, fairly hot humid summers. It can be hot for a good 4-5 months. We also usually have some rare days in March when it's warm enough for shorts and t-shirts.
However, depending on where one lives in Canada things can be different. In the prairies and the plains further west, it can be extremely cold in winter. However, they can have hot summers too.
The thing that most visitors to our country notice the most is that the people are extremely polite. Obviously, not everyone is polite, but as a nation, we generally are. The other thing visitors notice is how clean our country is, in general. Further north there is a lot of beautiful unspoiled country. Even the populated areas manage to keep a lot of green space.
We celebrate diversity here in Canada, and while it may seem paradoxical, diversity is a huge part of our identity as a nation.
I was born in the city in which I currently reside, and I will likely be here for the rest of my life.
I love Canada. Happy Birthday.