With Canada Day behind us and the Miss Teenage Canada pageant only three weeks away (!!!), I have been reflecting on what it means to be Canadian and what sets Canada apart from the rest of the world. Representing Canadian values is exactly what the position of Miss Teenage Canada entails, so it is fitting that our first blog assignment is to discuss what makes Canada GREAT!
To me, Canada is truly special because no matter one’s race, sexual orientation, or financial situation, there is opportunity to accomplish one’s goals and aspirations. Canada is renowned for its rich multiculturalism, with our national identity being that we don’t have one; we have many.
When I think of Canada as a land of new beginnings, I am reminded of how my grandparents immigrated to Canada following the Second World War, in search of a life that would offer new opportunities without the threat of political or social turmoil. My Nonni went on to own a successful business and work for the City of Toronto while my Grandma and Grandpa secured secretary jobs with Manulife. All in all, their stories have proven to me that Canada truly is a place where anything is possible.
I am so proud to be Canadian and to live the life that I have. There are many additional factors that contribute to Canada’s greatness, so let’s take a look!
In 2005, not only did Canada become the fourth country to legalize gay marriage, gay couples were also granted the right to adopt children. With the recent announcement of marriage equality in the United States, I am proud that society is advancing in such a way where everyone is free to be their true self, and I am proud that Canada has been a leader in this movement for the past ten years.
Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. I believe many would agree that we Canadians sometimes take our healthcare system for granted, but I am grateful to live in a country where I have access to yearly physical examinations, medication, dental care, and so much more.
The discovery of Insulin
Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas that is used as treatment for diabetes, was discovered at the University of Toronto by Dr. Frederick Banting and medical student Charles Best in 1921. If not for Banting and Best’s work, people living with diabetes would live a very different life. The University of Toronto, arguably Canada’s leading post-secondary institution, continues to receive recognition for this ground breaking achievement.
Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics
In February 2010, Canada hosted the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, an event that will forever remain in the hearts of all Canadians. I will never forget the widespread sense of pride and patriotism that I felt during those Games, particularly when freestyle skiier Alexandre Bilodeau became the first Canadian athlete to win a Gold medal on home soil. Another iconic moment in Canadian Olympic history occurred when ice dancers (and my idols) Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir became the first, and youngest, North American ice dance team to win Gold. It was truly a moment that brought our nation together. The Vancouver Games established Canada as a major player within the Olympics, giving us an advantageous competitive edge during the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia last year. With the PanAm and Para PanAm Games taking place until July 26th and August 15th respectively, it is only fitting that Toronto host this esteemed athletic event.
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)
The largest international film festival after Cannes, TIFF takes the world by storm each September, featuring countless celebrities and noteworthy films from around the world. There is no doubt that Toronto is the perfect city to host such a grand event, with year-round programmes and screening opportunities that offer something everyone can enjoy.
Canada is home to many influential and world-renowned actors and musicians, with some of my favourites including:
Our stereotypes are (mostly) true
Canada is often associated with strong stereotypes, including: Tim Horton’s, hockey, bagged milk, always saying “sorry,” and of course, the infamous “EH!” What I love about Canadians is that we embrace these stereotypes as part of our identity, where our friendly and outgoing nature is recognized across the world.
Free The Children
It all began in 1995 when twelve year-old Craig Kielburger decided to put an end to child labour. In his hometown of Thornhill, Ontario, he recruited eleven of his friends to support him in his movement. Twenty years later, Free The Children is described as “an international charity and educational partner that believes in a world where children are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change.” In its Canadian roots, Free The Children has seen great success in its venture, with nearly 90% of all proceeds going directly to the cause. Similarly, We Day is an affiliated event in which thousands of youth gather to inspire social change.
Terry Fox was an absolute inspiration to all Canadians, and his legacy continues today. In 1980, Terry Fox began his run across Canada to fundraise for cancer research. The inaugural Terry Fox run began in 1981, and it remains one of the most well-known cancer fundraisers with approximately $600 million raised in his name. Terry’s story reminds Canadians that with passion, with a drive to make a difference, change is possible.
Canada is home to some of the most influential fashion labels in the world. Greta Constantine, Smythe, Pink Tartan, Erdem, Rudsak, you name it! As someone with an appreciation for individualistic designs, I can see that Canada is definitely a leader in making a statement! Bold, contemporary, and oh-so chic, Canadian designers continue to wow the crowd internationally and locally at World MasterCard Fashion Week in Toronto!
Our candy selection is on point
Now this is something that I have noticed over the years throughout my travels. Perhaps it is because I have a nut allergy and my personal candy selection is limited, but the array of sweet treats available here in Canada is much wider than that in the United States. For instance, take the Nestle Favourites (KitKat, Aero, Coffee Crisp, and Smarties); these chocolates are purely Canadian, and as such are not available outside our country. The same is true for Mars bars! Note to self: stock up on my favourite chocolates before travelling to the US!
Last but not least, Canada’s beautiful landscapes and nature are truly one of a kind. In August 2013, I took part in a twelve day canoe trip to Moose Factory, an Aboriginal reserve located by James’ Bay, where we canoed up the Missinaibi River from Cochrane to our final destination at Moose Factory. I will never forget the evening when we were in our tents, getting ready for bed, when all of a sudden, our teacher began frantically calling us out of our tents. We were concerned that something had gone wrong, but were awe-struck to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) pass through the sky. The Northern Lights are most commonly seen in northern Canadian provinces like in the Northwest Territories from August to October, and lucky for me, I had the opportunity to experience the beautiful Northern Lights!
You and I, we are the true north, strong and free.
Until next time,