History to make you proud of being a Canadian
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
In 1793, Upper Canada (now known as Ontario) passed an Anti-Slavery Act and Prince Edward Island also abolished slavery by 1825.
The celebration of Canada Day is especially controversial this year given the discovery of unmarked graves in former residential schools. The history of Canada—like many other countries—is rife with wars and injustice, but also offers some silver linings. Despite the past atrocities of our country, Canada’s history has some golden moments that can be appreciated on Canada Day.
HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRESSIVE
While the US was at the height of their slave trade, Canada became a safe haven for people looking to escape slavery. With the help of Harriet Tubman, the “Underground Railroad” was a series of safe houses and people (or “conductors”) who were able to give clothes, food, and safety to the slaves who were travelling to Canada to become free. Nearly 30 to 40,000 slaves fled to Canada because of the railroad, and it was the biggest anti-slavery freedom movement in North America.
The Slavery Abolition Act was passed in Canada in 1834 and abolished the owning of slaves in every province of British North America (now known as Canada), freed all the remaining slaves in the area, and dictated that anyone who came onto Canadian soil would be freed. Before that, some provinces had taken to ending slavery in their own rights. In 1793, Upper Canada (now known as Ontario) passed an Anti-Slavery Act and Prince Edward Island also abolished slavery by 1825. However, like many other places at the time, British North America (Canada) also had practiced slavery for years before becoming a safe space but were ahead of the curve in ending it as compared to other countries. For instance, it was nearly 30 years later when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed ending the practice of buying and selling slaves in the US.
Canada was also progressive when it came to gay marriage. In 2003, Ontario and BC became the first two Canadian provinces to legalize same-sex marriage until the Civil Marriage Act was passed throughout Canada in 2005. Canada was the fourth country to allow same-sex marriage just behind the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain.
Our country also has the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is designed to keep us a free and democratic society. The charter dictates the rights of every person in Canada which includes freedom of religion, freedom of thought, belief, and expression (including freedom of the press), freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.
Canada remained an underdog for so long and their army was practically non-existent, but they made a badass reputation for themselves during the first World War. Four years into the war, the 100,000 Canadian Corps were noted as “shock troops” meaning they would undertake the toughest tasks and fulfill their duties. They proved their worth in their first major battle: the 1915 battle of Ypres—and the Germans carried out the first poison gas attack in history during this fight. Canadian soldiers had to urinate into cloths and put them over their mouths in order to avoid exposure to the poison gas. After a brutal and almost impossible battle, the Canadians held the line and breakthroughs by German soldiers were avoided, but it came with the cost of 6500 of those either killed, captured, or wounded. Canada had never experienced such carnage and tragedy before this, but they would relive it again during the battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917—Canada’s most celebrated military victory. During this battle, 100,000 Canadian troops overtook German forces and captured the ridge until it could be defended again. More than 10,500 Canadian soldiers were killed and wounded in battle.
CLEAN AND RENEWABLE ENERGY
Our country has also been on the forefront in producing clean and renewable energy. According to Natural Resources Canada, we are a world leader in producing and using renewable energy resources which provide nearly 19 percent of Canada’s total main energy supply. The most important renewable energy source for us is hydroelectricity or moving water which makes up 59 percent of Canada’s electricity production. Canada is also the second largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world and the seventh largest producer of renewable energy in the world as of 2018. Our home and native land is also in the top 10 countries for their use of green energy sitting at eighth place according to a 2017 Clean Energy Canada report.
RAILROADS MADE CANADA POSSIBLE
The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and Canadian National Railway (CNR) are a series of transcontinental railways that run through all of Canada. The development of these railways was essential to expanding Canada as a nation and allowed Canadians to be independent enough to not rely on their American or British counterparts. They were revolutionary at the time for transportation. These railways helped to industrialize Canada as well as open and connect new markets and made more demand for technology and other resources. In fact, if it weren’t for these railways Canada may not have existed at all. Many provinces only agreed on confederation under the basis that they would be included in the railway path to connect all of Canada, but it wasn’t an easy feat. The construction of the 2000-mile CPR railway took 14 years to complete, a countless amount of money, and many lives were lost in the grueling and often dangerous process of tunneling through Canada’s mountains and laying rails on cliffsides. Railway workers were also subject to bear attacks, forest fires, and thick and dense woods while building the railway. The railway allowed for tourism, strength in wartimes, transportation, and ultimately Canada’s independence from Mother Britain.
There are many reasons to celebrate or to criticize Canada, but people from all around the globe immigrate here for a reason. Canada has had its fair share of controversy, but we can acknowledge these past atrocities while also celebrating our true north strong and free.