Happy Canada Day 2009... I have to admit, I care about my country, and I decided to join in the festivities today, wear red & white and do a little flag waving on this beautiful July 1. However as I prepared to go out it was not without moments of bitterness. I love my country, I am grateful for my freedoms, but I would be a little more proud to be Canadian if some of my country's policies were a little easier to understand and embrace, particularly around issues of immigration. Specifically, I would like to someday be allowed to invite my friends from Colombia to join me in Canada for a celebration - any celebration - and the day they are permitted to travel will be a day of celebration indeed. Does it honestly seem acceptable in any way that the Canadian government can work so hard to develop trade relations with a country, but deny the citizens of that country virtually any chance of entering Canada even to visit family? There must be a better way...
As you will have noticed, I have developed a deep fondness for the country and people of
Colombia. It may seem an unlikely love story - A Canadian woman, and a country
that has been scarred by years of internal conflict and a generally negative
impression in the eyes of the world.. How did it happen? It was not a politically motivated attraction, although I have a background in social sciences and a deep appreciation for cultural differences (and similarities) and an interest in travel. It was more the result one of life's funny/strange twists and turns. Like any story, it involves people, and the human element is what I think should be brought much further to the forefront of all the debates and "issues" involved in policy-making, even in this fair country. I saw a quote by Nelson Mandela just yesterday about the concept of "Ubuntu," and came across this explanation by Desmond Tutu when researching it further:
"One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity." (Desmond Tutu, 2008).
This shared experience of being human and sharing this planet is one of the things I have learned in my travels and friendships. What would make this a happier Canada Day for me, and for many who are separated from loved ones, is if we could extend our generosity a little further and look beyond stereotypes and discrimination based on national interests and histories, to the actual humans involved.
Happy Canada Day