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In the lead up to our Canada Day coverage, we asked Globe catalysts - a special group of readers from across the nation - about personal experiences that define Canada and being Canadian.

Here are their stories:

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"I emigrated from Pakistan to Canada in January 1982, found employment in a month in very adverse economic times (still with the same company), and was able to bring my fiance (got married in our home parish in Pakistan) later that year. 30 years of wonderful married living, raising a family that started in Toronto and continues to this day in Kitchener.

Now 3 of our 4 children have long past finished their university education and setting their own roots. The youngest is elementary school and we are now for the second time, vacationing from coast to coast, from park to park, this great vast land, which was made settled by the aboriginal and immigrants. We have enjoyed meeting Canadians from all walks of life while discovering the artifacts of the Burgess Shale in BC, the Paleo-Eskimos at Port aux Choix, NL, witnessing the memorials of immigrants at Pier 21 Halifax, NS, Gross Ille QC, Holocaust Memorial Montreal, QC and Joseph Brant in ON or enjoying the scenic beauty of Rideau Canal, Welland Canal, and the Saint Lawrence Seaway, the Pacific Railroad.

As a family we have been welcomed in to communities of Mount Pleasant & Eglinton, Toronto and now the Waterloo region. We have volunteered with other community members in schools, church, and human service organizations.  We have participated and volunteered for candidates in local municipal elections, provincial and federal elections. At times we have raised our collective voices of this community in the various levels of government.

So having spent Canada Day in our community as well as in the nation's capital, at Olympic Park Calgary -  we are proud to proclaim ourselves as Canadians! We give thanks to God for the grace to live our lives here in Canada." - Fernaph, Kitchener, ON 

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"This is a very personal story that I hesitate to share, but it will tell you why I am proud to be a Canadian. We arrived in Canada nearly two decades ago, happy to be in a country where we had both economic and personal freedom, and one in which we felt safe. We looked forward to a happy life in Canada, one that we could grow old in and one in which our son could flourish and have the opportunities that had been lacking in the country of his birth.

Sadly things did not work out as we had hoped – in 2001 my wife suffered a return of her breast cancer that had been 'cured' over a decade previously – this time it was in the bone and incurable.

We were introduced to the doctors at the BC Cancer Agency who gave my wife the very best care possible, a journey that lasted six years until she died. In 2004 the unthinkable happened – our son developed a nagging cough that turned out to be a massive tumour in his chest. His tumour was, unlike my wife's, curable and although he went through five months of intensive chemotherapy, followed by surgery, he fully recovered. There were times, though, that my wife and son were both receiving treatments in the same hospital. To add to this, I had a few medical adventures of my own during this period – the removal of a benign tumor and a biopsy that caused a sepsis and hospitalized me for a week.

The result is that I have a very positive view of the Canadian and BC medical system. I came through these disasters financially intact and with a great respect for the care given by the doctors and nurses of our system. I don't think that there would be anywhere else in the world where we could have got the excellent care we had without a financial burden that could have left me both without a home and bankrupt. Well done Tommy Douglas and well done Canada!" - DavidWriter, Vancouver

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"As an immigrant from Scotland,  I arrived in Hamilton, Ontario on January 22nd of 1982. I was transferred by a large multi-national corporation so have no tales of particular hardship to recount other than my first day at work, Monday February 1st of that year.

Faced with a daily commute from Hamilton to Mississauga, about 45 minutes in those days, and being aware of the vagaries of Canadian winter weather, I had equipped myself with a used Honda Civic with massive snow tires on its front driving wheels and thought these vulcanized, deep treaded monsters must surely be overkill.

On the Sunday evening of January 31st it started to snow in a way that I had only seen In TV documentaries and kept snowing all night. On the advice of my wife's family, with whom we were living, I allowed myself 3 hours to make this my first journey, thinking this is a ridiculous commute time.

So at 5 a.m. I shoveled enough driveway to get out of Dover Drive and headed for the QEW. I was driving a car I had only owned for three days and was not familiar with, going somewhere I had never been, on the "wrong" side of the road, manipulating the standard shift and pedals with the wrong hands and feet, in weather I could not even have imagined in Scotland. I made that drive, in the slow lane, bumper to bumper all the way, in about just over two hours, inventing new shades of white for my knuckles at every one of the fifty six kilometres.

My single moment of awe in that terrifying journey was the sight of a bank of four snowplows moving in sync, in the oncoming lanes, progressively arcing huge white plumes of snow into each other's paths then onto the highways edge, their blue flashing beacons and high beamed headlights providing a light show to accompany that early morning choreography of motorized ballet. To my foreign eyes it was a spectacle indeed.

I made it to work on time that morning, as did most of my new, fellow workers. While my amazement at what for them was a typical winter commute gave them some cause for mirth round the coffee machine I will never forget workmate Nick Mitchoff's half scornful half humorous comment: "I suppose you think you're a Canadian now just 'cos you made it through a little snow?"

Actually I did Nick. I really did." - Jim Young, Burlington, Ontario.

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" With a Habs jersey, you can go anywhere in Canada.  I was out of town in Edmonton. My wardrobe was casual. And then I was invited to a special event - but dress code was black tie or ethnic. I wanted to join my friends so I took the ethnic option: I went to SportChek and bought a Habs jersey. (I know the Oilers are a great team but they're not yet in the Black Tie League). I was prepared to rationalize my outfit but the 'gate keeper' got it immediately. She chuckled, said something about loving my ethnic wear and welcome. To me, that's Canada, somehow. " - George Roberts, Calgary

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"I have always stopped to " kiss the soil"( or hug a tree) when returning to Canada.  It is hard to explain the sense of " being home" that I feel in every province. In 2006 I decided to spend some time  in other countries. On good advice I bought bright red hard luggage and stuck Canada stickers all over them. I was assured by other travellers that the high regard for Canada would be revealed in the pristine care given to my luggage. They were absolutely right!"
- Sharon Wilton

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"I was born in Winnipeg during World War II, and grew up surrounded by Europeans who came to Canada during or following the war. That experience of Canada as a place of refuge, surrounded by people from many different countries, has formed my sense of Canada.

There was no sense of connection to Britain, to the Queen (well, the King, initially), and a limited connection to the European countries from which my neighbours (or their parents) had fled. Instead, we learned about difference, about what we had in common and could build on.

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And no one would buy German products, or even accept a ride in a VW — an indication of the damages of the recent past and a hope — together with others' war experience--to build a safer place to live. The over-riding image: a country of immigrants." - Br3n

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"When my husband and I stepped into the evening air on our first night in Rome from the apartment we'd rented, the lamplights were just coming on. Beautiful young women in impossibly high stilettos linked arms and strolled with equally beautiful young men over the cobblestoned street. This was a neighbourhood Caravaggio once called his own and in my tshirt, capris, and chunky sandals I felt extremely out of place. We wandered down the Via then turned up the Vicolo di Montevecchio to an osteria that had one empty table.

After we'd each ordered a glass of wine and as the waiter cleared away the table beside us recently vacated by a young American couple, he said in an arched tone: "Americans. They always order wine by the glass." I protested - "We're from Canada!"

His attitude immediately changed, a smile lit up his face.

He explained the chef/owner had lived in Canada for some years, then hurried to the kitchen, bringing back the owner to tell us more. The young man explained he'd learned to cook in Montreal and although was fond of Canada decided to come home to Italy to open his own restaurant. He was so happy to speak with us that he sat and joined us, recommended dishes, and sent limoncello to us after dinner. We returned twice more to the same osteria over the next 10 days, always to be greeted with large smiles and expansive arms.

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We learned to order wine by the carafe. And to appreciate that being Canadian can spark a particular kind of tenderness." - VMoreau

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"During my first trip to Europe, while in university way back in 1969, I was travelling from Brussels to Paris by train and two young Americans joined me in my train compartment. Like me they were backpacking through Europe and they asked me if I had accommodation arranged in Paris. I replied no but my plan was, on arrival, to ask someone for a recommendation. They asked if they could go with me and I said yes. On arrival at Gare du Nord, we went out to the street and I asked a woman if she could direct us to a clean but inexpensive hotel. She named one near the opera and off we went. At the hotel reception, we were greeted by two middle aged women.

Speaking French, I told them that we needed two rooms and I let the Americans check in first. The women were very polite but reserved speaking to the Americans who, of course, spoke no French. Then I presented my passport. The faces of the ladies beamed, "Ah vous êtes canadien!" they cried. They then explained that they were from Marseilles and were liberated by the Canadian Army in 1944 and would be forever grateful to Canada. The Americans were perplexed by the warm greeting I received and when I explained the reason, they also had a history lesson as they learned that not all of France was liberated by Americans. And I learned another reason to be proud of Canada as I did not know that Canadians had been involved in the liberation of Southern France as well as the Normandy Invasion." -  Vineberg, Winnipeg

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"In deciding to emigrate from the UK to Canada in the mid 1960s we chose any province except Quebec in light of significant separatist violent activity at the time. Having been interviewed in London I was offered employment in Montreal including free travel for us and all our worldly goods. I decided to accept the job anyway and with some doubts we arrived in May 1966 and actually spent eight happy years in Montreal, including adventures during the FLQ crisis.

While settling in we learned about the upcoming activities surrounding the 1967 centenary which for Montreal meant Expo 67 and when the time came we bought six month passports. As far as we were concerned, this was a success beyond all expectations in which Canada was a most gracious host to the world. We were able to go to Expo when we wished and for as long as we wished and we remember the excellent transit system to and within Expo, the friendly atmosphere, the way Canadians and Canadiens welcomed visitors from around the world, the effort put into Expo including the building of an artificial island, the entertainment, both organized and spontaneous and the countless varied pavilions. It was a time when Canada, through Expo and all the cross-country centenary activities, came of age in the eyes of the world." - LenMoxon, Halifax

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