Tuesday, September 04, 2007

When I Was Canadian

I am not a separatist. It's unfortunate that whenever I display a tiny bit of love for my province that I have to preface it with an apology. Sorry that I wear the Pink White and Green on my hat, sorry I used it in the NLDL logo. Sorry I fly the Labrador Flag, the Pratt Flag and the PWG side by side. I apologize that my brethren in the upper echelon of upper Canada feel I am inferior in my very being.

Truth is, I feel we have to start thinking like we are our own country, no apology for that. We have to have a pride and understanding in our own history and culture. We have to recognize the context of Newfoundland and Labrador outside of Canada just as we now life in a Newfoundland and Labrador that is a part of Canada.

I have been Canadian. On the rare occasion I have felt that connect to the rest of the federation. Anyone remember the Discovery Train which toured the country? It was a museum of discovery of all things Canadian Coast to Coast. Of course Central Newfoundland had recently lost its trains, tracks and infrastructure in a deal with Canada that would see the trains of Newfoundland and Labrador and the terms of union that provided them sold off to repair a crumbling system of highways. The roads nearing St. John’s were indeed improved. The Sir Robert Bond Bridge which was due for upgrade and widening which was to be paid for by the sell-off of the railway still exists in its narrow and neglected state. And Central Newfoundland has luxury compared to Labrador's transportation neglect... But I was young and I didn't see any of that. I was captivated by the lights and funny clothes.

When I met Terry Fox, I felt Canadian. Terry was one of the few simple people in this country who without financial or political gain was able to galvanize this country’s sentiments on all coasts. Terry is one of the rare instances in my life when being Canadian felt right. He remains one of the reasons I cannot dismiss Canada in the Newfoundland and Labrador experiment.

I felt an old familiar pride of the maple lead when parliament hill rung load with the ode to Newfoundland during the anniversary of Beaumont Hamel last year. When we became a nation of men, and for a short time had that pride of place, a dominion, a country, the symantecs are irrelavent. We were what we were. We were not British, nor were we Canadian.

When I have traveled or when I meet Canadians here. On the truly grassroots level the taxi driver, the farmer, the miner these Canadians have built the country and they understand the regional unfairness innate in being a Newfoundlander or Labradorian in Canada. They understand that the third world conditions of rural communities, the suicide rates in Labrador, that these are not acceptable in a land that provesses to be a province of a G8 country.

...But I hang on to these moments in the hopes that they will one day define me. I hang on to the strengths that Canada has in the hopes that one day we will be equal partners in the family. I hang on to the fundamental belief that Canada is not a failed experiment for Newfoundland and Labrador. I hang onto these fundamentals because without them I am homeless. A man without a country. A nation without a nation.

I am Newfoundland and Labradorian first, no apologies.

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