I Am Canadian

27 Oct

On Monday an odd coincidence occurred to me, that led me to ponder the idea that my trip towards marriage is linked in some cosmic way to my status – my proudly held status – as a Canadian. Some of you already know the story of my engagement, how Gerard prearranged the whole thing with the good folks at Citizenship & Immigration Canada. At my citizenship ceremony, after I had been declared a new Canadian, Gerard got down on one knee and, in front of the judge and all of my fellow new Canadians, he proposed. If you haven’t seen it, check out this video.

On Monday, my personal life and my life as a Canadian were once again linked, by virtue of the fact that two events happened on that day.  First, we got confirmation of our wedding date. This has been quite a journey that has led to us committing to a date on which we will, after ten years of cohabitation, become husband and wife. Ten minutes later, we went together to my younger son’s school, which was set up as a voting station in the Ontario municipal elections.  And there, for the first time since becoming a Canadian citizen, I exercised my democratic right to vote.

This is a right – and a responsibility – that I take very seriously.  I am mindful of the fact that in parts of the world, I as a woman would not have this right. The brave war veterans, both living and dead, fought for my freedom of choice, for my right to vote. It seems only right that Gerard and I, in recognition of those men and women who sacrificed so much, are having our wedding reception at the Royal Canadian Legion. What better place for us to start this new phase of our lives together.

Soon we are going to start seeing the poppies. In Canada, as in other parts of the world, war veterans hand out poppy lapel pins in exchange for donations. The lapel pins are worn every day until November 11th – Remembrance Day – at which time they are placed at a war memorial.  I find that Canadians are very respectful in their attitude towards our soldiers. The wearing of poppies is done with a great deal of pride and a respect that is almost sacred. When a fallen soldier is returned home, having made the ultimate sacrifice, ordinary citizens suspend their lives to gather at overpasses and on bridges to wave flags as they salute the soldier’s hearse as it travels down the Highway of Heroes.  This video is worth watching. Grab the tissues before you click on the link.

Last year, I did something special for Remembrance Day. Along with most of my co-workers, I observed a minute of silence at 11:00 a.m. After that, I solemnly got changed into my running gear, pinned my poppy onto my running jacket, and secured my Metropass in my fuel belt. I went outside into the biting cold, and began my run – a run with a purpose. This run was dedicated to the veterans and the war dead. I ran from the office to the war memorial at Queens Park, where I joined the crowds gathering for a Remembrance Day ceremony.

At the end of the ceremony, I unpinned my poppy and left it at the base of the memorial. I thought of my grandfathers, who were both veterans of World War II. I thought of a friend of mine south of the border, whose son was, at the time, a soldier in Iraq. I thought of the very elderly veteran who had sold me my poppy; I thought of how the lines on his face told a story that I could not begin to comprehend.

Exactly one month after that Remembrance Day, I got my citizenship.  This year, on November 11th, I plan to do what I did last year. Only this time, I will be doing my Remembrance Day run as a Canadian.


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