Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

It’s Good To Be Known, But For What?

I remember the days when people would say that Canadians traveling abroad are perhaps among the only ones that can stitch a flag to their backpacks and be welcome wherever they’d go because of that. Canadians are nice and considerate, people would say. They were then and many, let’s hope the majority, still are.

Yet the image is being challenged by a group of adventurous yet inconsiderate young Canadians who have put themselves on the shame map by disrespecting a few of the iconic American landmarks such as the Yellowstone Park. A selfie here, a selfie there, they managed to step in those places that clearly said ‘do not’. There must have been a ‘please’ in there too, but the rush to get reactions to boldness was too much. So un-Canadian.

There will be some charges, and they will likely be forbidden to visit the US any time soon. That’s not it though. It’s the notoriety such incidents create, chipping away at the image that was built over the years. Not a bad one, you’d agree. It’s good to be known for being respectful.

Then it’s the green matter. Or lack thereof. It’s not good to be known for being the home of one of the worst polluters in North America. It is the oilsands, of course. They are the source of an incredibly high amount of secondary organic aerosols which increase the concentration of particulate matter, a recent Canadian study concluded, which can make the air people and animals breathe a lot more toxic than it should be. Carcinogenic too, according to the World Health Organization.

Another one in a different journal that was published two years ago brought attention to the much higher air pollutant concentration than previously thought forming out of the oilsands. When people’s health is at stake… well, never mind, that has been not been the case in communities closely positioned to either oil, gas or mining explorations. People were left to their own devices which are often limited.

Yes, Canada used to be known as ‘green’. That has been changing over the years though. If the previous government had us pull out of international climate change commitments and agree to ridiculously low targets, the present one has yet to show its shades of green by honouring the promises made during the flamboyant campaign.

Canada’s future as a green country is not farfetched. We have what we need, resource-wise. It may take a while to switch to renewable energies and the provincial and federal governments would have to commit financially to make it happen, but really, what other choice we have when industrial giants like China are pledging to switch to alternative sources of energy and have 5 million electric cars on the road in the near future. There is no turning back.

There is a magic word called subsidy. When the government decides to put more into what matters because our very future depends on it, good things happen. We ought to be known for that instead of scientifically-flawed processes that see pipelines approved and projects like the Site C dam being praised as good investments. We ought to have people know the difference between profitable for a few, versus sustainable in all aspects, hence good for entire communities and the country too.

Yes, Canadians are good people. The recent Fort McMurray fire (still raging by the way, though it is somewhat out of the hot news, no pun intended) brought forth the kind of stories that reinforce the belief that Canadians are brave, kind-hearted and considerate. There was a lot of heart being poured in getting people evacuated safely and saving as many of their houses from fire as possible. Many others donated generously to those left without homes and belongings.

Then, the ugly stuff emerged. People posing as Fort Mac fire refugees tried to scam generous people, others having just escaped the fire with a few possessions, mostly of sentimental value, ended up being robbed on the way to safer grounds.

You could say some bad apples look for opportunities to make a few dirty dollars and such people exist everywhere. Yet in times of grief, the opposite should kick in. If it’s poverty that pushes people to stealing, that is unfortunate. Poverty can be an ugly contender to honesty.

The few that made the news stealing and impersonating are small potatoes though. The recent revelations that over 300 addresses and names in the infamous Panama Papers were traced to Vancouver stings a lot more. Stealing is not all poverty-related after all. Shame.

There’s always good and bad coming together and even the skeptics would agree that you can’t have it all good and rosy. That’s not the goal either. How about aiming to return to being known as kind, considerate, even if too apologetic at times? To return to being known as environmental stewards who care for their land and base their decisions not on how they affect the present generation but how they will be helping future generations exist and flourish.

To be known not for having the most handsome Prime Minister in the world, or for the now out-of-proportion PM elbow incident, but for how boldly he insists on keeping his promises, because he is the face of all Canadians and their hope to make the country stand out for the good things that happen here.

It’s about returning to being able to walk around with the flag stitched to our backpacks and our heads held high. It’s been like that for an awfully long time, why not keep it that way?


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  1. Well written, Daniela. In my view, Canadians continue to be among the nicest people in the world. I was just in Vancouver and was pleased with the level of kindness, generosity and politeness.

    • Thank you, Graciela. I agree that many (majority) still are and it would be a shame to be known for the opposite ever…

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