– David Smith, journalist and founder of the Radio Okapi network in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Radio MINURCA (now Radio Ndeke Luka) in the Central African Republic.
16. On the edge
The thing I love most about Canada is our coastline – our landwash. Where the water and land meet. We have 265,000 kilometres of coastline, the longest of any nation and 16 per cent of the total coastline in the world. That means we have a lot of wonderful places to go for a walk. Seven million of us live on the coastline and many of us go down to the sea at every opportunity.
The landwash is a wonderful metaphor for the rhythm of opposites that is life itself; everything defined by and bound up with its opposite. Although the ocean and the land define each other in complex ways – the place where they come together – that threshold is a magical place.
We can stand in the security of the land and experience the harmonizing age and weight of the ocean and, from our place on that threshold, we can feel the song of the universe. And on that edge we know our place. It is essentializing – stripping away arrogance and hubris. It is a place for dreams and ageless conversation. And when the sea turns into fury, it does our souls good to retreat to the bosom of the land and the companionship of others.
Maybe our coastline is part of why Canadians are disposed to being able to find the moderation of the wonderful middle; to value what we cannot measure but whose value we know in our hearts.
I especially love the rocky, exposed coastlines of the North Atlantic – where you hear and see the echoes of time in the rocks. These ancient coastlines are wild places, vital places – that give us hope.
And perhaps from the coastline, we have acquired the natural hospitality that is so deeply Newfoundland – and so deeply Canadian:
“Tide and wind and crag/ Seaweed and seashell/ And broken rudder…/ And the story is told of human veins and pulses/ Of eternal pathways of fire/ Of dreams that survive the night/ Of doors held ajar in storms” (by E.J. Pratt)
– Zita Cobb, innkeeper and founder of Newfoundland’s Fogo Island Inn
17. The Canadian flag
I hate winter. My parents immigrated to Canada from Jamaica in the 1970s and I tease them often about their decision to leave a tropical island for the woolly sweaters of Ontario. But the truth is that I understood as a child, and even more so now, that their decision to come here had nothing to do with the weather. It was about finding a place where they could reach their full potential and raise three kids who would have the ability to reach theirs. And they weren’t the only ones – I love that so much of our country’s collective pride is wrapped up in the fact that so many Canadians weren’t born here but instead chose to be here. As a family travel writer I’ve taken my sons around the world and back. Each time we return and catch that first glimpse of a Canadian flag we’re reminded of all that it stands for – and how lucky we are to call it home.
– Heather Greenwood Davis, writer and blogger
18. Canadian passports
As someone who has lived outside the country for many years, I am often asked about the one specific thing that reminds me most of Canada. Is it hockey, maple syrup, a loonie or a toonie? How about the unique traffic on the 401 or the old city of Montreal? Well, it could be all these things (except the 401), but for me, my prized reminder is a small, navy-blue booklet filled with coloured pages: the Canadian passport.
Our passports are almost the antithesis of Canada – our grim pictures (no smiles or adornment allowed) stand in stark contrast with the friendly, animated individuals who hold them. And having lived and travelled in conflict zones around the world, where equality, respect and freedom are often not present, I know that, when I see someone holding this little booklet, I will be standing with someone who understands the value of kindness, sincerity, curiosity and dignity; someone for whom basic rights – such as health care and education – are not merely for a certain segment of society and someone who values my views and beliefs, even if we disagree.