When you don’t live in Canada much, you appreciate it all the more when you drop in. A place where things work. Where you can take something back if you don’t like it. Where you know the law protects you against wrongful arrest and a “softening up” by the state police.
Even if you live elsewhere, it’s nice to know Canada is there: a bastion of decency against decadence; a bulwark of good-will in a world of suspicion and treachery; a centre of respect and affirmation against the forces of contempt and abuse; a place where a person has fundamental rights before the law, regardless of race, creed, status, or gender.
Oh, I suppose these values get eroded with time. Within its lovely borders Canada witnesses the barbaric often enough these days: parents murdering their teen-agers out of religious fanaticism; young men killing each other in parking lots over trivial disputes; serial killers on the loose like wild creatures of prey; worst of all, people taking advantage of the nation’s amazing tolerance and trust to abuse the very system that serves them: mafiosos plying their underworld trade like subterranean larvae, the “vivos” of this world who think a day ill-spent when they don’t get away with something. For this repugnant horde, laws exist to be broken.
But for all that, Canada’s lovely values endure. It’s like they are built deep into the Canadian shield and can withstand the most wild and violent of storms. Never have the words of a national anthem seemed so prophetic: “God keep our land glorious and free.” Preservation is the amazing thing in these tumultuous times. The great values of the British North America Act have endured. Coming over from Britain, shedding their light across an untamed land in the 19th Century, supplemented and updated as the nation matured — these values, inherited from the Reformation, must have sunk so deep into our bedrock social structures that today’s liberal democracy is like a “rock undaunted mid the raging storms of time.”
What can you say to Canada on it’s special Day, 2016? First of all, the admiring world might say that Canada should recognize how unique and amazing and greatly-to-be-cherished its values are. She is like the White Rhino: exceedingly exotic and rare — and thus endangered. When you flee to Canada from say Zimbabwe, where you can be roughed up, even mutilated or killed, for being numbered among “the opposition,” it’s almost unbelievable to step into Canada’s world of civility and democracy. Canadians should not kid themselves: our values are as rare as Zimbabwe’s White Rhino. And thus they need protection.
When it comes to the Rhino, you arm the wardens, for starters, and pay them well. You shoot poachers on sight. You protect the majestic creatures as best you can against the madness of backward cultures which put a premium price on the Rhino horn as an aphrodisiac. You spread information. You raise consciousness. You try to banish a few of the many diseases which afflict the human brain.
Canada needs to be equally vigilant about its rare and exotic values. As John Stuart Mill said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” In a world like ours, where the forces of barbarism are on the march, it seems a nation of almost infinite tolerance needs some intolerance for its own protection. Selective capital punishment comes to mind; and regular deportation. Of course nobody wants to override the very values we wish to preserve: tolerance, mutual respect, empathy. But as Barbara Kay said about one particularly virulent criminal, “keeping such a person around for the good of the whole society is like keeping a tumor around for the good of the body.”
Secondly, I think the world might warn Canada that, like the White Rhino, our values are not eternal and should not be taken for granted. In fact, apocalyptically speaking, we need to imagine a time when such bulwarks of democratic values are “taken away.” That’s when the world can expect a dictator who combines all the power with all the forces of evil. Human rights? Equality before the law? This autocrat will trample such ideals as a rhino does young plant. For him, the law amounts to his own will. One of his ominous titles is “The Beast.”
Francis Schaeffer raised a pertinent question for we, the privileged citizens of liberal western democracies: “How Shall We Then Live?” His short answer would be, we should defend and share our values with all our strength.
We should also seize the day. We should maximize our God-given potential in this time of unlimited opportunity. We should do our best to bless the admiring world.