When I was young, I was fascinated by geography. There was a large world map taped to one of the walls of our family’s apartment. One could not walk by this map and not notice the vastness of countries like Canada, United States and the former Soviet Union (now 15 independent countries). Thinking back to the map now, it is terribly outdated because some countries no longer exist (e.g. Yugoslavia and USSR), and the world has incorporated new ones (e.g. Kosovo, Eritrea, East Timor) since our map was first printed by the National Geographic well over 25 years ago. As we know, a lot has happened in the world in 25 years. But one beacon of stability is Canada, one of the largest and most respected countries in the world.
To anyone studying a map of Canada, what is striking is the vastness of its land, which seems to stretch infinitely from coast to coast. One defining feature of Canada is that it borders three oceans (Arctic to the north, Pacific to the west, Atlantic to the east). Some provinces such as Ontario and Quebec are literally three times the size of an average European country. Anyone who has been on a cross-country road trip can attest that it is here in Canada that one can really experience Mother Nature in all its beauty and glory. From the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia to the Canadian Shield and to the beauty of the Maritimes, even if one is not much of a traveller, there is a little bit here for every climatic taste. Much more than its landmass, Canada also boasts an abundant supply of natural resources (yes, water here is the cleanest in the world and has been the target of multinational companies in their water extraction effort).
Beyond its renowned natural beauty and ownership of a sizable portion of our planet, Canada can also boast a vast amount of political stability to the outside world. At a time when Western democracies are suffering from an existential crisis, Canada appears to be more of a outlier as the country chooses a different political and economic path from its next-door neighbour (the USA) and even from a country whose constitution governed Canada until 1982 (The Great Britain). Why does Canada choose to be an outlier? The default explanation is that having a worldly Prime Minister in office certainly helps. Justin Trudeau is everything Donald Trump is not and provides a good antidote to the spread of populism. Maybe Trudeau’s charm has warmed the hearts of many in Canada and abroad, but nothing Trudeau has done is really out of character for Canada. An alternative explanation is that Trudeau is simply upholding the values that has made generations of Canadians so proud such as kindness, generosity and acceptance of others who are different. Had Trudeau not been in office, another leader would have also ensured that Canada would remain true to its values. The turbulence of the storms of 2015-2016 on a global scale has also affected Canada. However, Canada has stood firm against the temptation of joining forces with its friends and allies fed up with the global order. It is possibly the only Western democracy left where life still carries on as usual.
As a country of 35 million blessed with an endless supply of resources and a large swathe of the planet, Canada is very lucky. Too lucky. Living in a well-endowed land also comes with a responsibility to keep this country free of fear, hatred and racism in keeping with the beauty of this land. It means that the citizens should never live in constant fear of what is to come tomorrow. Thankfully, Canada has decided not to let in the fear and anxiety of other countries. Even 25 years after I first put my hand on that map of the world, this country is still one of the largest and most well respected countries on this planet. And this is definitely a good position to be in as Canada celebrates its 150th year anniversary.