Happy 150 Canada


Image courtesy University of the Fraser Valley

And Happy Independence Day, USA

Today is the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada, the day when three British colonies in North America became the first four provinces of Canada. Ultimately, after a lot of arguing and angst, it led to what the world now sees as Canada, stretching across the top half of North America.

Some personal images in celebration of Canada 150. Here is one of the few of my pictures to survive my trip down the whitewater Missinaibi and Moose Rivers to Moose Factory last summer, at the put-in. That’s a monument to the early explorers of the fur trade route.

And in three days, Canada’s neighbour to the south (mostly, but there’s also Alaska to the west), the United States holds its annual celebration of its declaration of independence from Britain.

The close association of the two days always prompts comparisons between the histories and cultures of the two countries, and I won’t belabour them here.

But it is a good time to consider our history, and as many people, particularly Canada’s first peoples are pointing out, not all of it is wonderful.

Yes, Canada presents itself as the happy, nice country. And for the most part, that’s true. We are, today, vocally and for the most part tolerant, open, accepting and supportive. We have a good social safety net, public health care, liberty of conscience and religion and speech. We have strong public education and equal opportunity—mostly—for all.

But we do have flaws, and the U.S. does, too, and it is important to recognize these on our annual national day. Despite our claims of equality for all, Indigenous people in Canada (and the U.S.) still do not enjoy the same opportunities, rights or standard of living of most of us—certainly they do not receive what Canada promises. Hundreds of Indigenous communities across the country have not had clean drinking water for decades.

The status of women in Canada and the U.S. still lags behind that of men. Visible minorities do not get the same treatment from society, business and even institutions as white Canadians and Americans. We may not feel comfortable about that, we may wish all were equal, we may be striving mightily to achieve true equality for all, but we have to admit that things are not ideal.

Time to celebrate

But today, and Tuesday, are days to celebrate what is good about our countries. It’s time to be happy, to appreciate what our respective countries do for each of us, and what we can do for our fellow citizens.

We have to acknowledge the mistakes of the past, so we can redress them and avoid repeating them. But a day like the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the current country—which is a wonderful place to live for most of the people here—is a time to look forward to how we can make it even better.

Here are some more of my photos of this country.

An iconic Canadian image: Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

Another iconic Canadian image: Moraine Lake in Banff, the image that used to be on the back of our $10 bill.


A picture of my two sons in front of Lake Louise about nine years ago.

Some of the inukshuk sculptures in the Ottawa River last summer.

A collection of Canadian images just would not be complete without a shot of the Rideau Canal in Ottawa.

I could not resist publishing this one: the 13-year-old Super Nicolas standing on a glacier, halfway up the mountain — as far as it was safe to go without mountain climbing equipment — above Lake Louise.

Rapids on the Dumoine River in western Quebec.

Along the Mattawa River in northern Ontario.

And what would a Canadian photo collection be without a picture of a grizzly bear?

Happy birthday!

Writing tip: Anniversary — an annual kind of word


Photo by Daphne Cholet via Flickr Creative Commons

As the year end and new year approach, I thought it was a good time to discuss a year-related word and deal with something that has bothered me for a long time.


The word: anniversary.

What bugs me: the way too many people misuse it, as in “first-year anniversary,” or “ten-year anniversary.”
It bothers me because the word “year” in unnecessary in this usage. According to the Oxford dictionary, “anniversary” means

“the yearly return of a date on which an event took place in a previous year.”

According to some cursory and largely unnecessary research—all literate English speakers should know this—it derives from two Latin words: “Annus” meaning “year” and “versus” meaning “turned.” Thus, an anniversary is the turning of a year.
We can speak (or write) correctly of the first, second, tenth or whateverth anniversary of something. To write the “two-year anniversary” means “the two year yearly return of the date.” It’s redundant.
Worse, I hear this misuse from otherwise reputable and well-spoken sources, particularly on the CBC radio. And you know what that could lead to: more and more people picking up on that misuse. As English is a living language, common use becomes accepted and adopted as correct.
Please, join me in this effort: let’s say and write “first anniversary,” “tenth anniversary” and so on, instead of “x-year anniversary”—or worse, “six-month anniversary.”
If we don’t make this effort, this incorrect use will become correct. And I’ll be left irritated by something that used to be wrong, but is now right.
Don’t you hate that?

Have a happy, health and prosperous new year.