Today's community-focused Canada Day edition was inspired by Chantel Elliott who, since last fall, has been a member of the Globe Catalyst program, which brings nearly 1,000 readers together with Globe reporters and editors to help shape our journalism. She is 39 and lives in Calgary with her husband, James, and sons Samuel, 3, and Max, five weeks.
We recently asked you and the other Catalysts how The Globe and Mail should mark Canada Day, and you suggested that we explore great communities across the country. Where did that idea come from?
It comes down to the people, diversity and friendliness of Canada. And my neighbourhood in Calgary, Garrison Woods, is a great example of that.
How does your neighbourhood exemplify the best of Canada?
We literally moved just four blocks into this community, and we were so surprised when we got invited right away to a neighbourhood potluck dinner. We knew nobody, but they instantly welcomed us into their home. In the past 11 years, I've lived in Calgary and Toronto and Edmonton – and that's never happened.
That represents what Canada’s all about. In our neighbourhood, there are working moms, stay-at-home moms, gay couples, blended families and a real variety in ages. You become a bit more respectful for other people, you get to know people for who they are. It’s not about keeping up with the Joneses and the best car and the best house. It’s about more interesting conversations — you’re not circulating with the same kind of people.
How does your community make a difference in your life?
Everybody looks out for everybody else’s kids. There’s that notion of safety and security, support and friendship. It makes life easier if you have people you can call on when you need a hand, and can develop genuine friendships with them. There are three groups of kids that walk every day to school, and the mums rotate responsibility. We call it the walking school bus.
The people play a big part in any community - but what impact does the design of a neighbourhood make?
It makes a huge difference. Garrison Woods was designed as a community that would have front porches and back alleys, so it’s a walkable neighbourhood. They’re smaller lots, so we go play in the playground more often. As a homeowner, you tend to be out in public spaces, so you’re more likely to meet your neighbours.
How will your neighbourhood be celebrating Canada Day?
Last year a mom on our street, Hannah O’Neill, organized a Canada Day party, and we just had a riot. We got to meet everyone on our street plus a few streets over. All the kids decorated their bikes with streamers, and every house had a Canada flag flying. We’re doing it again this year; I think every house is participating.
This interview has been edited and condensed.