Remember the dreamers

June 29, 2024

(Thomas Froese)

A boy with a Canadian flag in Lake Louise, Alta.


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(The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, June 29, 2024)

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI – It was a national daily, a letter-to-the-editor, and it said this.

Canadians, all of us coast-to-coast, need the Oilers to win the Cup to feel better about ourselves, so we don’t have to stick our sorry Canadian heads in the oven, or the toilet, or some other humiliating place because this is now the hopeless state of things.

Ottawa’s scorched earth policies have left a dismal landscape without hope or pride or honour, said the writer. And if the Oilers could somehow win it all, it wouldn’t just be for Connor McDavid or Edmontonians or Albertans, but for every Canadian’s emotional survival.

So now that the Oilers, after a valiant battle, haven’t returned the Cup to Canada, where are we? Is there nothing to celebrate?

I won’t argue about hockey bringing good things. I’m the guy who brought ball hockey to Uganda, where, under the African sun, someone today, stick in-hand, is surely declaring, “We’re Manchester United!” before bouncing a hockey ball off their head.

But while figuring out what’s wrong, or right, with our country, let’s remember its birth, like any birth, wasn’t any walk in the park. Prior to July 1, 1867, while Canada West (Ontario) was supportive, only 37 of 62 delegates east of Ontario even wanted a new nation.

French speakers feared losing their language and Catholic identity. Growth and power were with the Protestant British. Which didn’t excite Indigenous peoples, either, who’d lived in the region for thousands of years.

Nova Scotians feared higher taxes, but their delegates overruled them. New Brunswick delegates and the public both opposed confederation. Even Prince Edward Island, which hosted the delivery of this baby nation, didn’t join the party until another July 1, six years later in 1873.

Even so, there were dreamers. And, soon, a uniting western railway. So with a population of 3.4 million people, less than one-tenth of today’s, Canada was birthed with an uneasy union of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Besides PEI, within a decade Manitoba, the Northwest Territories and British Columbia joined Canada. Yukon split from the Northwest Territories in 1898, Alberta and Saskatchewan joined in 1905, Newfoundland became the 10th province in 1949, and Nunavut came in 1999.

This weekend it’s easy to think about other things, like the beach or what’s on the barbecue. Or today’s challenges. Or disappointments. Which isn’t entirely unlike 1867. But to be together, even imperfectly, is still better than being apart.

This is what was decided in Charlottetown on that summer day. Different people coming together to build a future are better for it. This is our celebration.

Today I’m in Charlottetown with Child #3, Hannah. Like myself, and many other Canadians east to west, she’s born outside Canada, grafted into this nation’s story, into its family tree.

The trip is Hannah’s 18th birthday gift.  “Let’s go east,” I said. So we did, driving Hamilton to Quebec City, along the Gaspe Peninsula, south to, eventually, Prince Edward Island, to Charlottetown for Canada Day, before heading to Cape Breton, then Halifax, and back home.

It’s the third and last of these travel Canada 18th birthday gifts for my three children. With any luck they’ll each keep something of the people and the land and the spirit of it all, even as anyone living here should get to know Canada’s soul.

Speaking of, Canada was first called a “Dominion” because those founding fathers in Charlottetown were inspired by the 72nd Psalm which celebrates the Creator’s “dominion” extending “from sea to sea.”  It’s an ancient awareness also celebrated by First Nations.

Which is to say that some things are larger than nationhood. Long before anyone imagined a place called Canada, old King Solomon, who wrote Psalm 72, also wrote elsewhere that “Without a vision, the people will perish.”

This puts a finger on things nicely. In celebration, or in harder times, people anywhere need a vision. In Canada, the Stanley Cup helps too.

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June 29, 2024 • Posted in ,
Contact Thomas at [email protected]


3 thoughts on “Remember the dreamers”

  1. At this chaotic and disputatious moment when it can be tricky to ascertain what Canada actually stands for, good on you, Thom, for quietly urging us not to lose sight of those deeper strands of meaning which still abide underneath all the rubble.

  2. Happy Canada Day. Happy birthday to Hannah and glory to God for the many blessings he offers when our hearts have hopelessly lost the way. Thanks for the piece.

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