Canada’s not broken, we’re a work in progress

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Individual rights are not paramount in Canada. And that’s a good thing. We know to build a nation we need to strengthen communities, geographic and demographic.

By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on July 3, 2023.

OTTAWA—Is Canada broken? Canadians celebrating our national day across the country don’t seem to think so.

And neither does the world.

Just last week, three of Canada’s cities ranked in the top 10 of world livability, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Our most livable city, Montreal, didn’t make the cut but Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary did.

Millions of Canadians who live in other places believe their community is best.

Newfoundland is known worldwide for its friendly people. CNN broadcaster Anderson Cooper made his way to St. John’s, N.L., to cover the tragic loss of the Titan submersible, but could not leave the city without a special shoutout to the generosity of the people.

Just last week, Canada became one of the first countries in the world to guarantee equality in professional sport payments.

Tennis Canada announced the change in a release which said it would fund increased women’s prize money via a hike in the number of days of competition and a revenue share increase with the Women’s Tennis Association.

The announcement means a huge financial boost for women’s tennis. In the 2023 Canadian tennis tournaments next month, men’s prize money is $7.623-million while the women’s purse is only $2.788-million.

It will take five years to reach equality, but women are ecstatic that Canada is taking the lead in an area that will have ripple effects around the world.

The tennis move should also send a message to other sports, where women’s participation is grossly underfunded.

Just last week, millions of Canadians joined in a celebration of our country’s LGBTQ-plus diversity.

From small communities to megacities, Canadians joined to celebrate the right to be who we want to be and love who we want to love.

In Caraquet, N.B., at the same moment New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs was making life more difficult for transgender teens, the community was repainting its crosswalks in pride colours.

Higgs’ obstinacy on transgender issues has cost him several cabinet ministers, and his job as premier is now on the line.

The Progressive Conservative party has already started a process to replace Higgs, largely because of his decision to ram through legislation where schools must inform parents if a student chooses to change the pronoun identifying their gender.

Higgs’ response to cabinet objections was to ignore complaints about his leadership style and simply dump dissenters.

In small and large towns across the country, people wore the pride colours positively in recognition of the fact that Canada is a country where we can embrace our differences.

When the wildfires hit in Nova Scotia, Canadians from across the country reached out to help with financial support and firefighting expertise.

As the smoke still filters across the land, we know that we are in this together.

Do we have problems? Yes, housing affordability is top of the list for young people who cannot pay the high price of housing in most parts of the country.

Homelessness and mental health challenges mean urban centres are magnets for those who have nowhere else to go. In a country like Canada, help for those most in need should be top of mind on our Canada Day to-do list.

The effects of colonization and deculturalization on Indigenous Peoples are only now being tackled in a serious way with financial reparation and collective recognition of the damage that has been inflicted.

Reconciliation is still a work in progress, as is the attempt to build a country where race and religion play no role in your capacity to grow as a person or community.

We are not there yet. But the fact that most Canadians can see equality of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation as a positive goal is something to celebrate.

The old saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence does not apply here.

The grass is already much greener on our side of the fence.

Canadians don’t need to win a lottery. We have already won in the lottery of life, either having been born or having migrated to a country that strives for success for all its citizens.

Individual rights are not paramount in Canada. And that is a good thing.

Instead, we understand to build a nation we need to strengthen communities, geographic and demographic.

There is much work ahead, but, on this Canada Day, we can say with certainty that our country is not broken.

Instead, we are a work in progress.

Happy Canada Day!

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.