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Three-year-old Zahar Murad waves flags as she watches the annual Canada Day parade in Montreal in 2013.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Anniversaries provide a handy excuse to look back and take stock. So it is with Canada's annual early-summer celebration of its founding 148 years ago.

July 1 hasn't always been a day of pomp, circumstance and free concerts – the yearly Parliament Hill festivities didn't become a formal, publicly organized event until the 1950s.

But why not celebrate this country? We have cause to; there are ample reasons why we're lucky to be Canadian, even if it's not always easy to control our cynicism in an election year.

Sure, we could rail against Bill C-51, the troubling security legislation that recently passed through Parliament. Mounting partisan rancour and Ottawa's ponderous action on the First Nations file are similarly easy targets. Opinion polls show many Canadians feel the country is headed in the wrong direction.

But the fact is, we live in a period of uncommon prosperity, safety and social calm. Two of the main national debates of the moment in this country involve monuments and Senate reform, hardly the stuff of revolution.

And when you zoom out in geopolitical terms, Canada has it good. There is more to us than the usual cliché – that we're like Americans, only quieter and more apologetic – but if the land of peace, order and good government has become synonymous globally with being, well, a bit dull, then that's okay.

Millions of Greeks would leap at boring and sleepy right about now. Millions more people in other countries would jump at the chance to live here and share in our peace and well-being.

Canada is an evolving idea, built around what we've come to think of as national traits: decency, forbearance, inclusiveness. There's the land itself, but really it's about the growing mix of people who inhabit it and the culture that springs from them.

To offer just one recent example, last week the U.S. Supreme Court upheld gay marriage, an issue that's been settled law in this country for a decade.

In American politics, it's a Republican wedge issue; in Canada, conservative politicians march in Pride parades.

This country isn't any kind of utopia; the challenges are many and daunting. But for one day, this day, let's take the time to extol the virtues and benefits of where we live, and remember that we are fortunate to be here.