Martin extols quiet patriotism of Canadians

He flashed the thumbs-up, he exchanged kisses, he zig-zagged across a red carpet to shake every hand in sight, and a beaming Paul Martin praised the nation he was elected to lead.
It was a jolly prime minister who strode up Parliament Hill to celebrate Canada’s birthday and extol what he described as a great, but quietly patriotic people.
Just days ago, he fretted about being turfed from office by those very same people.
But his Liberals survived a nail-biter of an election with a minority government and Martin was in a mood to party with the country yesterday.
“Ours is a gentle national confidence—except for today,” he told about 45,000 party-goers on Parliament’s front lawn.
“We are quiet patriots—but not today. We are resolute. Our love is strong. Our pride runs deep. Our country is Canada.”
Martin paid tribute to a culturally diverse, generous, successful nation whose arms remain wide open to newcomers from all corners of the Earth.
“We as Canadians don’t talk much about patriotism . . . [but] our pride in being a welcoming country that is the envy of the world is second to no other.
“Our compassion toward those in need and the inclusive nature of our society are second to no other. The fact is, Canada is second to no other.”
The walk up Parliament Hill was like a victory march for a politician who days earlier was trading partisan darts with his opponents in the closest federal election in a generation.
“Hey, Paul! Bravo!” said one man as Martin walked past.
“Congratulations!” shouted a woman with a red Maple Leaf bandana wrapped over her forehead.
One middle-aged woman plowed forward and planted a kiss on his cheek.
The cultural diversity Martin spoke of was on display in the shadow of the Peace Tower, where a variety of peoples and languages took part in the celebration.
A woman in a hijab stood next to an Oriental woman with a baby in her arms; a First Nations man shuffled his feet to the rhythm of an Acadian dance on a day of shared national pride.
Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson spoke of other anniversaries in her address to the gathered throng.
“Throughout the Maritimes and Quebec, the 400th anniversary of Acadia and the treasures of the Acadian tradition are being celebrated,” she noted.
“Still fresh in our minds, too, is the 60th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, where the sight of our veterans on Juno Beach brought home to us the sacrifices and the victories of our armed forces.”
The Governor General said she had helped swear in new citizens from 19 countries earlier in the day.
“These 50 people and their families eagerly looked forward to that moment of welcome, and Canada Day will always carry a special thrill for them. All of us are now part of their family.
“We can learn from their pride and their hopes.”
Joe Yoon remembered what first struck him when he arrived from his native South Korea 15 years ago: the frigid February chill that raced up his spine as he set foot on the pavement outside Montreal’s Dorval airport.
But he found warmth elsewhere.
“These are a very tolerant, diverse people,” Yoon said, standing near the prime minister.
Western Canadians still may feel alienated by this week’s federal election results, but they didn’t let politics interfere with their patriotism yesterday.
David Korol, who celebrated Canada Day with his family at the Alberta legislature in Edmonton, voted Conservative like most westerners. Still, he said he doesn’t feel less Canadian because eastern Canada favoured the Liberals.
“That’s just part of the political process,” Korol said. “Everybody has one vote and the people have spoken.”
Vince Morrison, visiting Edmonton from Regina, said he’ll always be a proud Canadian no matter how the rest of Canada votes.
Of the 92 federal seats west of Ontario, the Conservatives won 68. It was their strength in Ontario that carried the day for the Liberals.
But Laurie Bahri of Sherwood Park, Alta. said she doesn’t think the election outcome will make Albertans less proud on Canada Day.
“They’re still proud of our country and proud of our heritage,” Bahri said.
The Canada Day parade in Montreal came in the wake of a strong electoral showing in the province by the separatist Bloc Quebecois.
“I’ve come before but I feel it a little more this year,” Jose Santafosta, 53, said of the parade. “It’s a little worrying how well the Bloc did.”
But another party-goer said politics was the farthest thing from her mind.
“The parade is about people coming together to celebrate and forget about politics and hopefully forget their differences,” said Linda Agcaoili, 68.
The celebrations extended beyond the nation’s borders.
Under a searing Afghan sun, Canadian soldiers stationed in Kabul participated in games to mark the day while the Canadian embassy hosted a garden party.
Canadian guests at the base were treated to barbecued steak, pork ribs, and lobster. A rock band comprising soldiers played a concert in the lower ranks’ mess that lasted until almost midnight.
Canada has a contingent of some 2,300 soldiers in Afghanistan.
Back in Canada, scores of people received their citizenship on Canada Day in Vancouver.
Zhara Norouzi, who is from Iran and has been in Canada for five years, said now she has plenty of reasons to celebrate every July 1.
“Every year from now, I am going to celebrate for three reasons: first Canada Day, second my birthday, and third, being a Canadian.”