As Canada Day celebrations approach, what does it mean to be Canadian?
Sonnet L’Abbé teaches creative writing and poetry at UBC’s Okanagan campus. She spent the last two months touring the country by rail as Artist-in-Motion with CBC, ViaRail and Community Foundations of Canada, asking Canadians how we should celebrate our nation’s 150th birthday in 2017.
How do Canadians feel about their country?
Canadians love their natural environment, no question. We all wish it were less expensive to travel and explore our vast country! Canadians also express either gratitude for the richness of our cultural diversity or a need for “more understanding” between cultures: we love getting along with each other and learning about each other.
There’s a huge feeling, though, amongst those I spoke to, that our federal government isn’t representative of or responsive to what Canadians deeply value. There’s a feeling of disconnect from the leadership of the country. There have been a lot of comments around rectifying that disconnect when I ask what we should do for Canada’s 150th birthday.
As part of your Artist in Motion tour, you wrote a poem about Canada’s upcoming 2017 sesquicentennial. Can you share an excerpt?
I’m working on something more personal, something that gets us thinking beyond a blowout bash and about the values we want to reiterate with our celebration. Here’s how it begins.
In four years, we will celebrate
the 150th birthday of our nation.
150 years of Canada,
or — should I say —since Confederation.
Quel moment de potentiel
de faire jaillir d’une occasion de puissantes étincelles
de la réflexion
sur la Constitution
de notre Canada conceptuel.
What is vital about Canada Day and what will you do to celebrate?
July 1st of each year is when Canadian communities do their best to live up to our multicultural ideals. I’ve always loved the collective spirit I feel in the crowd as people gather to watch fireworks in their local park. I love hearing many languages mingling together amidst a jumble of red and white flags and t-shirts and painted faces. This Canada Day, I might go to the beach at Kelowna’s City Park and swim in Lake Okanagan for the first time.
Sonnet L’Abbé discusses writing a poem about Canada.