Raheel Raza

On Canada Day (July 1) hundreds of new Canadians take their oath of citizenship like my family did 23 years ago. So this date has always held a special place in my heart and it’s significant that I’m celebrating my son’s wedding reception on this auspicious day.
But there’s more. This year dear Canada, I want to renew my vows with you. You see 23 years ago, I wasn’t sure what we were going to share. Today I’m older and wiser and hopefully so are you so let’s review where we’re at because both of us have had our ups and downs and are ready to settle down.
When I entered this relationship two decades ago, it wasn’t a fly-by-night decision. It was well planned and thought out based on mutual agreement of rights and responsibilities. However the official who presided over our agreement, told me a lot about my rights but not enough about responsibilities and definitely didn’t describe you in detail. Over the years I’ve learnt that rights without responsibilities are not workable in a healthy relationship. And you know I’ve worked hard at getting to know who you really are and what makes you tick, because that forms the basis of a long, mutually beneficial relationship. This has encouraged me to drop the hyphen and be just Canadian.
Sometimes it’s embarrassing when people ask me about your values. “So what exactly are Canadian values?” they ask cynically imagining that you Canada had no value system before you were flooded with immigrants who wish to now impose their own values upon you and change the way you were. But you know that I’m loyal, so I’m not shy to confess that I defend you with passion – I hope you’ll return the favour one day.
Canadian values, I tell doubters, are those that many before me fought long and hard for. Let me remind you Canada what these values are in case they’ve slipped your mind and forgive me if I critique the areas in which you’ve gone soft.
– Gender equality. You know how much this matters to me given my background. I thank you for giving me a voice and a platform. I love you for this one.
– Freedom of speech and thought. I had to learn about this important attribute because it wasn’t until I saw people trying to muzzle free speech that I woke up to understand it’s the greatest asset of a democracy. You need to pull up your socks on this one as there are hostile forces out there wishing to silence you.
– Freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Where I came from, people become violent on issues of religion. You Canada have renewed my faith in my faith that there is no compulsion in religion. I hope you will encourage a separation of church and state, as it’s incumbent for your survival as a democracy.
– Respect for other ways of life and lifestyle choices. I confess this was hard at first and took a while for me to come to terms but hey, Canada you taught me to value human life above all and not to be judgemental.
– Pluralism vs Multiculturalism. It didn’t take me long to see that official multiculturalism was being misused by mercenaries for their own gain creating divisions and ghettos. Diversity exists by default – just let it blend and adapt to your values without forcing it down peoples’ throats. Just between you and me, an overdose of accommodation is creating problems so remember that you really don’t need to bend over backwards, quashing your own values to accommodate minorities. Most of us will find a way to fulfil our needs.
So this July 1, Canada I want to renew my dedication to you and the values we both hold dear. Perhaps you need to do the same because they can be sabotaged faster than I can say HAPPY CANADA DAY!

Raheel Raza is a Canadian author and journalist.