Why Canadas 150th birthday celebration beats Expo 67: Cohn

Why Canadas 150th birthday celebration beats Expo 67: Cohn

Measured against the exuberance of Expo 67, today’s birthday feels strangely subdued — as much a day of reflection as celebration.How very Canadian. A half century after our centenary we are less celebratory and more understated than ever.But at 150, Canada is not just older and wiser than in 1967, it is immeasurably better. For our centennial year turned out to be the calm before the storm, and we are only now reborn.My childhood memories of Expo 67 mirrored the emotions of the grown-ups around me: Limitless wonder about our achievements and endless optimism for the future.But our airy hopes were misplaced, our self-awareness circumscribed in a mostly white, predominantly English nation. We celebrated Expo 67 under the aegis of our last unilingual prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, whose successor, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, would soon propose the assimilation of our Indigenous peoples, before facing separatist and terrorist crises. These days, Trudeau’s son, Justin, presides over a period of calm with Quebec and has struck a tone of accommodation with Indigenous people in Canada. Article Continued BelowAs a country we are far more rounded, grounded and grown-up. We have reinvented multiculturalism, and begun a belated journey of reconciliation.But Indigenous dissents and protests have freighted our festivities with a sense of historical hand-wringing this July 1. It is often said that those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are condemned to repeat them. Yet it can also be said that those who dwell excessively on the mistakes of history can become prisoners of the past, blinded to future possibilities.Canada is a country conflicted over its past conflicts. But Canadians — whether of Indigenous or immigrant descent — forget that such tensions and tragedies are universal in a world of human migration, interaction, assimilation and segregation.

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