Celebrating Canada Day is celebrating each other and the way we’ve decided to care for each other, said Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski at celebrations at Jubilee Park beside the Annapolis River in Bridgetown July 1.
He said Canadians don’t build walls, they build bridges.
Habinski followed comments Premier Stephen McNeil and West Nova MP Colin Fraser had made just minutes earlier about the blessing of living in Canada and the peace and friendship Membertou and the Mi’kmaq had shown French settlers in 1604 at Port-Royal.
“When you look over the Annapolis River, that was the mode of transportation 400 years ago when Champlain was greeted by (Grand Chief Henri) Membertou,” said McNeil. “The values of this country were created at that moment in time and over those year. Today we have men and women in uniform all over the world carrying the Canadian flag and representing those Canadian values in parts of the world that aren’t as peaceful or lucky as we are to live in this great province and great country of Canada.”
“We’re so blessed to live in this country,” said West Nova MP Colin Fraser. “Sometimes we take for granted the freedoms and values that we hold dear as Canadians. I think on Canada Day especially it’s a day for us to reflect on what it means to be Canadian. When we look around the world today, with all the challenges we’re seeing, we recognize how lucky we are to live in this beautiful country and how lucky we are to live in a country where we take care of each other and we work together to solve our problems.”
Warden Habinski noted that Annapolis County is the site of the first permanent European settlement on Canadian soil, and the settlement would not have survived its first winter if it hadn’t been for the friendship and aid that was extended to it by the Mi’kmaq and Membertou.
“There’s something remarkable about that story, however, because Membertou, when Champlain arrived, had an opportunity to make a choice. And the choice was predicated on a set of values,” the warden said to a crowd gathered just metres from the river’s edge. “He had to decide what do you do with a stranger at the gate, this moderately helpless stranger at the gate, who is here. What do you do with him? You can respond with hostility and fear and distrust or you can respond with generosity and help and care. He chose the latter.”
Habinski acknowledged that Canada’s history has not been perfect.
“But there are touchstones like that embedded in our history that we have to circle back to again, and again, and again to remind ourselves what our best self is,” he said. “We’re at a point right now where many nations of the world are reconsidering their national identities. They’re renegotiating these things. And I would suggest to you that national identities are not established by trade wars, and they’re not established by physical confrontations, and they’re not established by parliaments or congress. National identities are built in places like this. A national identity isn’t a policy, it’s a pattern. It’s a pattern of the thousand tiny interactions that we have with each other where we demonstrate over and over again that we value each other as neighbours. That we care about people who are vulnerable. That the stranger at the gates will be cared for as well. Canada as a nation and we as a community, and as individuals within this community – we’ve got a pattern of behavior.”
In a not-so-veiled reference to what’s happening in the United States, Habinski distanced Canadians from similar behavior.
“When there’s a stranger at the door we don’t lock the door. We set an extra plate at the table. We are not a nation that builds walls. We’re a nation that delights in building bridges, and where better to celebrate that than in Bridgetown,” he asked. “We have lots to be proud of as a nation. Tonight as we watch the fireworks … take a moment, look away from the sky, and look at the people around you, because what we’re really celebrating when we celebrate Canada Day are those people. We’re celebrating this community, we’re celebrating the way that we have decided we will care for each other. That’s worth celebrating.”