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canada 150

Three prime ministers on Canada's present, past and future

Table of contentsJustin Trudeau on the presentStephen Harper on the pastPaul Martin on the future

THE PRESENT

Justin Trudeau: Let's celebrate our peace and stability

On the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we celebrate the millions of Canadians who have come together to make our country the strong, prosperous and open place it is today


CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANADIAN PRESS

For the past 150 years, Canada has tapped into the ambition, work ethic and ingenuity of its people. We are a country of millions bound together by a spirit of daring and hard work. We are innovators, entrepreneurs and good neighbours. We share dreams, values and the belief that better is always possible.

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A growing and optimistic middle class has long been at the heart of our country's success. A strong and thriving middle class will continue to lead the way.

As revolutions in technology increasingly shape our world, we know that to keep up and continue creating good, middle-class jobs, we must innovate, invent and dream boldly.

Thankfully, we have a lot of practice. For 150 years, Canadians have turned their ideas and aspirations into our country's greatest accomplishments. We are defined by the bold ideas some people doubted, the grand projects naysayers dismissed and the Canadians who never gave up.

Where would Canada be without a transcontinental railway, universal health care or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? What would our world look like without insulin, the telephone, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – or hockey?

Our aspirations today are even more bold and wide-ranging.

We envision a future in which reconciliation is a practised reality instead of a goal; where all genders, sexualities, orientations and identities are valued and equal; where mental health is understood and treated with compassion by doctors and colleagues alike; where all countries have come together to preserve and protect our planet; and where Canada continues to be a model of peace, democracy and stability.

Today, many of our greatest aspirations stem from the greatest challenges we face globally – the fight against climate change among the first ones. A cleaner, healthier planet for our children and grandchildren is not a desire but a necessity.

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At home, our most important aspiration is also our starkest failing.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation peoples were excluded from Confederation talks. While we have embarked on the journey of reconciliation, much work remains to live up to our promise of a nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown and government-to-government relationship with Indigenous peoples.

On the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we celebrate the millions of Canadians who have come together to make our country the strong, prosperous and open place it is today. We also take stock of our progress, where we have fallen short, and the changes we must make.

Great promise and responsibility await Canada.

We will continue to lead with courage and compassion, and demonstrate that diversity and inclusion form a proven path to peace and prosperity. We will carry the hard work of past generations forward, and continue to imagine and reinvent the future. Above all, we will never lose sight of a fairer, more sustainable world, and the role we must play in achieving it.

Justin Trudeau is Prime Minister of Canada.

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THE PAST

Stephen Harper: Let's be grateful to our past

A full appreciation of all we have been given should also lead us to embrace our own responsibilities to those who follow


FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS

As we mark the sesquicentennial of our Confederation, we as Canadians should stop to reflect upon how fortunate we are. In an era of unprecedented global wealth and opportunity, there is simply no better place to live.

While it may be tempting to congratulate ourselves for this blessed state of affairs, our gratitude should instead go to those who came before us and built so much of what we have. It starts with acknowledging the leadership and wisdom of Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir George-Étienne Cartier and their colleagues. Coming together in a time of great danger, they constructed a system that would allow British, French,aboriginal and immigrant to unite, while preserving their unique institutions, languages, cultures and faiths. That achievement is, despite the youthfulness of our country, one of the most enduring models of democratic governance in the world today.

Generations of men and women have since added their own stories to the annals of our history. Through wise decisions, hard work and sacrifice, they built our economy, developed our society and enhanced our liberty. Consecrating those triumphs are the tens of thousands of Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in distant lands, fighting to ensure that the great evils of the past 150 years did not come to our shores.

A full appreciation of all we have been given should also lead us to embrace our own responsibilities to those who follow. Are we also ready to make the hard decision s rather than take the easy paths? Are we prepared to dedicate ourselves to great causes in the face of grave challenges? Are we willing to make sacrifices in our own time so that our descendants will continue to enjoy our freedoms in theirs?

If our answers to these questions are yes, and our actions bear out those convictions, then we can be assured that, in another 150 years, Canada will be even stronger and better than it is today.

Stephen Harper is the 22nd prime minister of Canada

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THE FUTURE

Paul Martin: Let's invest in a diverse future

We must foster the talents of every person in this country, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and we must do so in ways that we have only just begun to understand


MOE DOIRON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

As we reflect on the past 150 years, there is great cause for celebration. However there is also much to be said about how we approach the next 150. Today, one in two Indigenous children lives below the poverty line, but there are still those who would argue that we can't afford to pay more to bring their health care, education, and child welfare up to the standard the rest of us have. That that is morally repugnant beyond belief goes without saying, but it is also economic nonsense.

Clearly, Canada must invest in the future of its young people, of which the fastest-growing segment are Indigenous children.

We are a population of but 36 million people, and for the first time in our history, there are more of us over the age of 65 than there are under the age of 15.

As a result, in the years to come there will be fewer young people as a percentage of our population than ever before, and yet they will face global competition the likes of which we have never seen, arising from the exploding populations outside our borders.

This means we cannot build our future only on the storehouse of natural resources that lie beneath the ground. We must foster the talents of every person who walks upon it, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and we must do so in ways that we have only just begun to understand.

For example, as a result of advances in data analysis and technology, jobs are changing as we speak; in order to keep up with the constant flood of technological advances, generation after generation will require new sets of skills invented for worlds we can barely imagine. What is required is that we make young people developers of technology, rather than simply consumers. This will be true across the board. It is obviously true in engineering and science, but it will also be true in how we develop our natural resources, in manufacturing, in farming and fishing, in law, finance, transportation and teaching. It will be true in every field of human endeavour, even government. And in each case, it will require an encyclopedic skill set.

It is critical to ensure every student in Canada that wants those skills gets them and that every Indigenous student gets them in the context of their cultural identity.

The point is that Indigenous students cannot be left out of this or any new frontier if we are to have a workable economy. And they don't want to be. The time to forge a real and true partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians is now. A partnership based on the same values of respect and understanding that we hold up to the world.

It is for this reason, among many, that as we embark on the next 150 years, we have to start with kids – and there can be no exceptions.

Paul Martin is the 21st prime minister of Canada.

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CANADA 150: MORE FROM THE GLOBE AND MAIL

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