Canada Day 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal on Canada and the entire globe. While we were still adjusting every aspect of personal and societal life in order to deal with this new reality, the murder of George Floyd resulted in an outpouring of grief and anger, mixed in with a deepening recognition of the need for an honest look at racism and to bring about effective change.

This started in one nation, but quickly spread to become a universal challenge. There is no denying the incredible difficulties and pains that have accompanied both of those major elements of the first half of 2020.

However, we also know that we have so much to be grateful for on this Canada Day. Even as we continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic and racism, let’s pause to be grateful today.

A few things come to mind immediately. As a nation, we seem more aware than ever about the recognition of the need to take better care of the vulnerable in our midst. Let’s act on that!

We are asking ourselves what we want to hold on to as we move into the new normal, recognizing that some aspects of the old normal weren’t necessarily good.

We’ve had to be creative in our ways of celebrating and being with people, whether in worship, grieving and mourning the deceased, teaching, working, parenting, team meetings, birthday parties, graduations, counselling, and so on.

We have been blessed with the generosity of workers at so many levels, whether in health care or essential services.

We have experienced some phenomenal leaders, at every level of government. The leadership is often accompanied by teamwork and compassion.

The heightened focus on racial injustice has resulted in serious conversations, many of them quite hopeful for the future. Those are a few areas of my personal thankfulness. What are your reasons for gratitude today?

I’ve always been grateful for the fact that I was born in Canada. That gratitude grows more fervent and sincere as I grow older and discover just how fortunate and blessed we are as Canadians.

I’ve mentioned before in a post on igNation that we live in one of the safest, healthiest and wealthiest nations in the world. Canada regularly places high up on lists of desirable places to live.

Of course, anyone who is aware of reality knows that there are far too many Canadians who are missing out on that safety, health and wealth. Go to a First Nations community or spend time near the homeless and impoverished in cities, both large and small.

Even if I cannot really be a big help to them, can I be at least aware and compassionate? Are my thoughts and prayers enough? No, but we all need to discover the ways we can be of most help. A simple thing like a welcoming attitude is a better thing than a critical attitude.

A characteristic usually mentioned about this country is its diversity and the welcome offered to so many from around the world. I recently read the account of a young Iranian man who spent four years as a refugee in Turkey, getting away from a situation in Iran that threatened his life.

He was awaiting the results of hearings into the possibility of coming to Canada. He writes, I have thought of suicide. I have thought of different ways to end this miserable waiting. But there is a hope in the name Canada. It conjures imagery in my mind that is both vivid and uncertain. A better life. Freedom. Safety in a distant northern land.

Once again, reality steps in and we have to acknowledge how stressful and difficult it is to grow into a sense of true belonging and inclusion, even in a welcoming nation. The uncertain reality that the young man mentions has a world of possibilities, but it also leaves many people isolated and stranded.

There are men, women and children living in their homelands or refugee camps who fantasize of life in a place of safety, wealth, health and opportunity like Canada. I wonder if those of us who live here really grasp that, but also grasp the fact that we are so blessed.

My personal experience is that it is only when I step out of my own milieu that I comprehend the truth. It happens when I encounter the reality in our First Nations communities.

Or, when I hear the stories of new Canadians or hear the stories of those who work in refugee camps around the globe. The reality comes alive in a graphic way when I travel to lands where people have only their dreams and hopes to live on. Canada. A better life. Freedom. Safety in a distant northern land.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Mary Jane Kelley
    Posted at 01:54h, 01 July Reply

    Thank you very much Father ! Mary Jane Kelley

  • Vicky Chen
    Posted at 06:05h, 01 July Reply

    I have not stopped being grateful the day I immigrated to Canada in 1972. ❤️

    From then on, this diverse country becomes my family, for better or for worse.

    Happy Canada Day!!

  • Michael Radcliffe
    Posted at 08:23h, 01 July Reply

    Philip you really nailed it this morning, we have so much to be grateful for and how often we overlook the margins!!

    Mike Radcliffe

  • Gabrielle Feuvrier
    Posted at 12:16h, 01 July Reply

    thanks Philip

  • Henry Mandamin
    Posted at 00:20h, 02 July Reply

    Thanks you

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 09:37h, 03 July Reply

    Thank you for your insightful piece, Philip. I too am grateful that my family were given the opportunity to migrate to Australia, a land of incredible opportunity. And yet we cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of the first inhabitants of our great nation who were dispossessed of their land and even to this day are not accorded the recognition they deserve. I recall a pertinent anecdote about Neville Bonner, the first aboriginal in our Parliament. Bonner recorded in his diary that he was never invited to a function or dinner in Canberra, our capital and seat of government. He was never invited even for a coffee or chat. He went to bed each night, hugging his pillow, his only friend. Bonner’s family have donated his pillow and his diary to the Museum of Australian Democracy. To me, this story speaks volumes about the lack of compassion and basic humanity that can afflict even a generally decent and generous society like ours. Hopefully, we have come a long way from the 1970s.

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