Getting ready for big party

This Friday begins the great countdown to the 150th anniversary of Canada.
On the 149th anniversary of Confederation, we will begin making preparations for the grand celebration one year from now.
This past month, my wife and I were fortunate to visit Newfoundland—the last province on our list of places to see. It has a different history than the rest of Canada having been a colony of Great Britain through to 1948, and has its own customs and special celebrations.
Newfoundlanders, for instance, solemnly will mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel on the morning of July 1 and then a huge celebration will ensue in the afternoon.
That WWI battle, and the loss of life, are of great importance to Newfoundlanders while few Canadians in the rest of the country are familiar with it.
My grandparents had immigrated at the turn of the 20th century to Saskatchewan, and their families acquired homesteads near Perdue and Biggar. Both the Ribchester and the Cumming families had left Scotland, travelling by ship to Montreal and then by train across the nation to Saskatchewan.
We have a picture of my grandmother going into a sod hut with a gun and some gophers. The Cumming family eventually left the homesteads and moved to Saskatoon and Yorkton.
I can’t imagine what it was like to live in a sod hut at the turn of the century. I thought about this as we visited fishing villages hanging on the edge of water in Newfoundland, most of which had been settled by Irish families who chose not to travel back to Ireland at the end of the fishing season in the late 1700s.
The land is bleak, and the North Atlantic can howl with fierceness that is hard to imagine.
On my wife’s side of the family, her relatives arrived in Canada as Empire loyalists following the American Revolution. Records indicate they began farming in what is now downtown Toronto.
When I was president of the Canadian Community Newspapers Association, I had the opportunity to meet with publishers of many ethnic papers published across Canada for immigrants. Two of the oldest papers are the Ming Pao Daily News and the Sing Tao of Vancouver.
With its large Chinese population, the papers speak to the needs of those Chinese-Canadian communities.
Those communities of people, along with communities of Hindus, Sikhs, Thais, Jamaicans, Greeks, Italians, and most recently, Syrians, all chose Canada—for one reason or another—to live and raise their families.
It was fascinating and informative to listen to people of different ethnic backgrounds talk of their decisions to choose Canada.
Vancouver and Toronto are the most cosmopolitan cities, with the greatest number of ethnic communities in the world. Our diversity and the variety of cultures are important to our history.
Our diversities, which can be seen in every provincial legislature and the House of Commons, make us unique.
Last week, the Globe and Mail published “Chop Suey Nation: A road trip uncovers the lives behind small-town Chinese Canadian Food.”
Ann Hui travelled from Victoria to Fogo Island in Newfoundland writing about the immigrants who have created Canadian-Chinese cafes across the country. Today, those restaurants are a Canadian tradition in every community and the menus change according to the writer as she travelled across provinces.
We owe the immigrant owners a debt of gratitude creating this Canadian food culture.
We have learned that we all can be Canadians, but it also is important that we can maintain our heritage—whether we are indigenous, Métis, Ukrainian, French, Pakistani, East Indian, Korean, Hindu, Sikh, Scottish, Filipino, or of any ethnic background.
Our differences have made Canada stronger. Every immigrant family has stories to tell and share on why they chose Canada to live in.
And “Canada 150” will be a great party to celebrate how this country has welcomed so many immigrants.
Let’s begin celebrating our Canadian culture this weekend.

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