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Happy Canada Day! Joyeux Fete du Canada!

Current government aside, Canada is still a good country. It's a kind, decent, safe place to live, work, and play. Today we celebrate 147 years since we made the first of those typically Canadian arrangements: three separate and very different colonies (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada, i.e. Ontario and Quebec) joined together to form a new dominion. We kept the British crown but incorporated the French language and allowed an uneasy peace between the Catholic and Protestant versions of Christianity. Accommodation for other faiths and other people would come later, and one day, being the progressive work in progress that we are, we will also fully accommodate Canada's first peoples.

So, on our national birthday, let's celebrate some of the quirky, wacky, and pretty great things that make us who we are....

In no particular order, here are just a few things to love about Canada!

Diversity: We are the world's biggest melting pot, or in Canadian sociological terms, the biggest mosaic.... In many Canadian cities, you could dine out every night of the week and eat food from a different corner of the world. On our public transit systems, you can hear (and see people reading in) hundreds of languages. We celebrate tournaments of cricket, lacrosse, hurling, and kabaddi. During the World Cup of Soccer, Canada cheers for everyone (although what will happen when our national team makes it to the final tournament??)

Natural Resources: Our greatly sought after natural resources including water, oil, minerals, grains, land, and, let's say it again, water. They make us one of the richest countries in the world. We must use these resources for good and not evil, but more important, we must improve our stewardship of what we have.

The Arctic: The world wants the Earth's northern engine, and we have an obligation to protect it at all costs. It's not all ours, we know that, but we need to be sure that sharing it doesn't mean abandoning it to fracking and other other dangerous exploitation. Just ask a polar bear....

Wildlife: Our eponymous geese are a worldwide scourge, but Canada is also home to other species whose habitats are shrinking. The beaver is our national symbol, the polar bear is our most beloved animal, and moose, caribou, wolves, foxes, chipmunks, and hundreds of others make their homes in our protected national parks. We've even given our basic unit of currency, the dollar, the affectionate nickname "Loonie," because it features the bird whose call signals cocktail hour all over cottage country, the loon. By the way, inflatable plastic alligators are wonderful geese deterrents....

Beer: Unlike the English version, ours is cold. Unilke the American version, ours is good.... and contains alcohol!

Hockey: In Canada, when you tell someone they play like a girl, you're complimenting them. Our women's team is the best ever, bar none.

Girl Guide Cookies: There are actually two cookie seasons. Who knew? Spring is the time for chocolate mint cookies, and in the fall, the classic chocolate and vanilla versions are on sale. Here's a link to the cookie map, so you can find cookies for sale near you. What else makes the Girl Guides of Canada so great? They welcome all girls and women, including lesbians and trans women.

Universal health care: When the CBC asked us to choose the greatest Canadian we chose Tommy Douglas, father of universal health care. Our system has flaws but it still protects us from financial ruin if we get sick. And where would we be without insulin?

Fish: Fun to catch, yummy to eat, our rivers and lakes run with hundreds of species of fish. Canadian activists and scientists are always thinking of new ways to preserve our fish diversity.

The Great Lakes: Ontario, Huron, Erie, Superior.... all in Canada. Michigan... should be.

Niagara Falls: Let's face it, ours are the best. And we've got lights.... and beaver tails.... and fudge!

CanLit: Four words...Alice Munro, Nobel Laureate.

Canadian music: Inuk throat singers are loved and respected just as much as Stompin' Tom, or Anne Murray, or Neil Young, or Leonard Cohen, or the Barenaked Ladies, or Ginette Reno, on and on. Clearly, snow, beer, and loons, are good inspiration!

Paddles up! It's summer! Happy Canada Day!

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