John White: Much to consider on this milestone Canada Day

There were specific emotional aspects this year that heightened the impact.

This was a milestone Canada Day.

Yes, it was number 150, but more than that, there were specific emotional aspects this year that heightened the impact.

Early on in 2017, I was reminded of my ability to move about the country to explore a new opportunity in journalism. I came to Castlegar in late January to take on this role as regional editor, and I am very thankful I could do so with ease.

I was lucky enough to work as a media consultant in Portland, Ore. last year and that was an incredible gift, as my wife and I were able to live and thrive in one of the most beautiful and progressive cities in North America. When I decided to leave there in October, we were welcomed back to Canada.

The timing was interesting. The U.S. election happened a week later, and we realized that we were fortunate to be back in Canada before President Trump began delivering on his promises to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, set his sights on restricting work visas, and renegotiate NAFTA, the agreement that governs the TN-1 visa that allowed me to earn a living in the U.S.

If he follows through on those promises/threats, that visa classification might be toast.

The Affordable Care Act allowed us to get relatively quick access to care with decent premiums. That would also be in doubt based on what we’re hearing from the media in the U.S.

Here’s another major difference to be thankful for.

The U.S. media has been under attack by Trump since he started his campaign, and his team of disinformation specialists have ramped up the dangerous rhetoric week after week as they project fault at the democratic mirror being held up to their gaffs and missteps by journalists who have committed to doing just that. This despite a dramatic reduction if not outright elimination of daily press briefings covered live by multimedia journalists. It is critical to democracy for the press to have access to the politicians governing at all three levels.

We have our moments in Canada with the need for Freedom of Information requests to weed out poor management when we pursue truth, but it’s a “yuge” problem in the U.S.

In Canada, we can hold our local politicians to account with no threat of retribution, or claims that we are fake news purveyors. There is a mutual respect in play that allows the relationship to work on both sides. My job would be so much more challenging if that weren’t the case.

The series of terror attacks in England reminded us of our relative safety on Canadian soil. But even then, we lost one of our own in the London Bridge attack.

Even out of that horror came a truly Canadian moment. Thanks to the positive and determined effort of her family, the #chrissysentme movement was born. People all over the world used the hashtag on Twitter when they did something philanthropic, and tagged her when they were inspired by her worldview in life. It was easy to be a proud Canadian during this remarkable reaction.

Finally, you have the Canada Day ceremony in Castlegar.

You had the standard speeches and well wishes from area politicians, and a wide variety of family-friendly events at Millennium Park. But there was an addition to this year’s schedule that impressed me.

Shemmaho Goodenough lead a group reading of the affirmation of Canadian citizenship that included recitation of Treaty Rights. This is the oath or affirmation that was recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. It was a moving reminder that not all Canadians can celebrate this anniversary.

The weight of that reality hangs heavy on many of us, as we grow to understand the depth of pain and despair that our First Nations carry with them as they try to make the best of the hand they were dealt.

I’ve always been conflicted by the glory of nationalism and the shame of colonialism. It’s not something I can solve in my lifetime, but if we all read up on the Truth and Reconciliation final report, we can edge closer to becoming a country that fully stands together.

We’re not perfect, but if we share a goal to pursue perfection and accept greatness as a country, we can take pride that we did our best.

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