Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
When the early summer sun is beaming, the smell of barbecue wafts across whole neighbourhoods, and almost everyone is legally required to take the day off, it’s pretty easy to feel good on July 1 about being Canadian. Thank goodness the Fathers of Confederation didn’t sign Canada into existence in the middle of February.
We gather as a flock of Canucks in backyards, campgrounds and pub patios – anywhere with a decent view of the fireworks – to celebrate the long list of attributes that make our country great. Whether it’s hockey or humour, Alice Munro or Stuart Mclean, the Tragically Hip or Drake or Hedley, we all bask in the benefits of living in the coolest country on Earth.
But like any worthwhile project, there’s always room to move forward. We have yet to stamp out homelessness or solve the many challenges facing first nations communities. Women still earn roughly 19 per cent less than men and the economic disparity between rich and poor is growing. Our politics are embarrassingly nasty, our kids aren’t active enough, and our winters seem to be getting longer.
Some of our perceived strengths – such as our heath care system and abundant natural spaces – are at risk of deteriorating if we don’t remain vigilant in protecting and enhancing them. It’s our responsibility to ensure that Canada is still great when our great-grandchildren come along.
So as we enjoy all that is good about our country, we can’t help but wonder about the next steps we can each take to give ourselves even more to celebrate next Canada Day.
This week’s question: If you could improve one thing about Canada, what would it be?
Jillian Vanstone, principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada
Create better equality in our education system. I see parents moving to different school districts to have their children attend a better-ranked school or enrolling their children in private school. Neither of these options is affordable to everyone, which leaves some children at a disadvantage regardless of their ability.
Frédéric Boily, director of the Institut d’études canadiennes at the University of Alberta
I would improve understanding between the provinces. Too often, we view each province through clichés and stereotypes (Alberta: right, Quebec: left), and we forget the political and social diversity of each province (e.g., francophones outside Quebec).
Kardinal Offishall, executive creative director of artists and repertoire for Universal Music Canada
I would increase the amount of funding given to the arts and extracurricular activities for youth. We have an extremely large group of talented people who are misusing energy because of inefficient programming made available to them.
Carrie Dawson, co-ordinator of the Canadian studies program at Dalhousie University
Safeguard the rights of the most vulnerable newcomers. We are increasingly moving towards an immigration system that relies on and then discards foreign labourers, and that villainizes asylum seekers for the “crime” of coming to Canada without proper papers. We must actively demonstrate and defend our commitment to equity, diversity, and democracy.
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