Reflections: Oh, Canada!

George Rowe


I am writing these words from the 18th floor of the Wyndham hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, USA. I am attending an International Health & Safety Conference. The city is absolutely beautiful.

My first session was on Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. Fifteen hundred men and women from every mentionable background stood shoulder to shoulder as we joined in the singing of the American National Anthem. Many of our American friends placed their right hand on their heart and tears could be seen on the faces of black and white people alike.

They sung with demonstrative vim and vigor and when they finished with, “O’re the land of the free and the home of the brave,” there were loud shouts and tremendous applause that could be heard around the entire perimeter of the Pittsburgh Convention Center (spelled that way in honour of our American hosts.)

The huge screen then quickly changed as a Canadian flag was displayed. The singing of our National Anthem gave me goose bumps on goose bumps as the screen took us on a Canadian tour of mountains, prairies, fishing villages and far northern communities.

I was absolutely taken up in the moment as fellow Canadians, Americans and delegates from around the world shared in the singing of “O Canada!” I felt such an overwhelming pride in being a Canadian that I, like my American friends when they sang their anthem, felt deep emotions rising up as my cheeks were saturated with the salty taste of prideful tears.

As the music to our National Anthem reached a crescendo and fifteen hundred delegates from around the world finished with, “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee,” in my spirit I saluted and said, “God, thank you for a wonderful anthem, an awesome flag and a country that I am mighty proud of.” It definitely set the tone for the rest of an eventful week.

I attended three workshops a day. I heard stories, saw videos, researched information and quietly dialogued with people that I had never met before. When workshop leaders or individual people around the coffee pot heard that I was from north of the boarder I was inundated with questions about health and safety, Canadian Law relative to industry, working conditions, employee/employer relations, etc.

I wanted to be a good Canadian representative but also found many opportunities to speak very highly of Tumbler Ridge and how blessed I am to have been a resident here for twenty-three years. They wanted to know about the grizzly bears, Pacific salmon, the Rocky Mountains and especially my longevity with this community. At the end of each day my wife and I—yes, she begged to come along and made all kinds of concessions to convince me to bring her—would visit some of the historic sites or small shopping boutiques but our conversation always led back to Tumbler Ridge.

Toward the end of the week I reflected back to Monday morning and the singing of our National Anthem. In fact, I Googled the history of our anthem and my sense of pride further heightened. Words such as, “…our home and native land…..with glowing hearts…..from far and wide……we stand on guard for thee…..God keep our land glorious and free….” caused me to bellow out the words of our National Anthem in a solo so loud it almost raised the roof of the ten floors above me while my wife covered her head with pillows and blankets—I was ecstatic. When I crossed the boarder and landed in Toronto I wanted to kiss the tarmac.

I am now back in Tumbler Ridge and I am doing some night-time reading from Macleans, Canada’s national magazine since 1905. My attention is drawn to an article by Emma Teitel, ‘Why The Song Must Remain The Same.’ Apparently there is now an on-going campaign to have some of the words in our National Anthem changed and thus reflect a ‘gender-neutral’ version and so generate an inclusiveness where there is no marginalization of gender.

My personal opinion, if that’s worth anything, is that the lyrics of our National Anthem are so perfectly balanced that no change is required to bring about a sense of inclusiveness or a ‘gender-neutral’ version.

Let’s not give up what we already have—if it ain’t broke, then it don’t need fixing. We fail to understand the value of something until we lose it. The death of a loved one or the loss of a family heirloom; a career cut short or the loss of employment; the loss of memory, sight, hearing or mobility because of a debilitating disease. Some people can rise above it while others fall beneath the heavy burden of lost-ness. I encourage you to enjoy what you have while you have it – including our National Anthem. Tell you spouse that you love them. Say hello to your neighbor. Be thankful for your job and your employer. Feel blessed with our local medical staff,our law enforcement people, a volunteer fire department, an excellent education system and, yes, our Mayor and Town Council

Whenever you see the Canadian Flag and hear or participate in the singing of our National Anthem, allow your emotions to bubble up and be proud of who you are and the fact that our National Anthem is one of the underlying foundations of our nation. When you stand tall, look up and remember that the sun is always shining.