Well, my dear country Canada.  You turned 145 yesterday.  Congratulations on your birthday.  I played it low key but really enjoyed the fireworks last evening.  I have been watching fireworks for well over a half century but they never cease to amaze me.  I didn’t get any cake but after 50 plus years of eating birthday cake at various times (and too often), it doesn’t hurt me to not have cake.   I remember your 100th birthday like it was a half hour ago.  I was a student in grade 6 living in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario.  There was a pied piper named Bobby Gimby who came through town.  He had been appointed by the federal government to write a celebration song and then travel across the nation in 1967 teaching young people to sing it.  He came to our school and some 200 of us formed a choir to sing “Canada…we love you…”.    We still love you Canada, but the times have changed–and so have you.  The snap crackle and pop of turning 100 has been replaced by the maturity and responsbility of being 145.  You are not old yet, heaven forbid, but you are not a kid any more.    And instead of getting an allowance, you now have incredible resources in your pockets.  You really are at an enviable place in life.

One of your earlier Prime Ministers, Sir Wilfred Laurier, positted that the 20th century belonged to Canada.  He was right, but he was a century too early.  In my opinion, the 21st century belongs to Canada.

You have an incredible pocketful of resources—natural resources like oil, minerals, timber and water.  Human resources like people, skilled workers, education.  Technological resources like communication, research and development.  Cultural/historical resources like a good name, a reputation as a peace keeper, a spirit of gentility.  You have economic resources like a stable economy, a functionning middle class, an attitude of cooperation.

The 21st century could and should belong to you.

In my opinion here is what we’ll need—

1.  peace, order and good government.  We’ve pretty well always had that but why abandon something that has worked for 145 years?  Let’s be sensible and balanced as we walk into the future.  No need to panic, no need to do something crazy.  There are deep ditches on both sides of the road, let’s not careen from one to the other.  If we are going to err, let’s err on the side of being dull, okay?

2.  to diversify our friends without losing our friends.  We have always been sleeping in the shadow of an elephant and that has been more good than bad.  But it’s not perfect.  The elephant next to us is sick and hurting.  We’ll have to be mindful of that.  Sick/hurt people aren’t at their best and can be difficult at times.  Like a good caregiver we’ll need to differentiate between the patient’s real needs and his moanings.  It’ll require skill here.  At the same time we’ll also have to cultivate new friends.  There is a whole world out there that would love to be friendly with us.  We have opportunities, let’s be wise about them.

3.  to be smart about our resources, especially our natural resources.  It doesn’t take  rocket science to realize that natural resources are a finite commodity. Figure out the rate of extraction and extrapolate.  At some point in time we won’t have oil to sell, timber to cut, minerals to mine.  I know that it’s a far date out into the future but it is a date.  What will be doing to diversify our reliance upon our natural resources and create alternative ways of contributing to the economic global picture of the future?

4.  sustain even magnify our people values.  Canadians have a historic reputation of being patient but strong people.  We are tolerant, but not stupid.  Beware of the anger of a patient man.  When WWII hit crunch time, it was the Canadian soldier who more often than not entered into the fray in an incredibly strong, smart, soldierly way.  We Canadians would be wise to figure out where our societal lines are and hold them.  Riots after hockey games aren’t funny.  Children being born into single parent families aren’t just statistics.  Homelessness isn’t just an American problem.  First Nations are First Nations.  We can’t just let our societal problems overwhelm us.  We believe that people matter in this land regardless of age, ethnicity, economics and hardship.  Let’s not let the cracks widen.  I urge us to civility, compassion and caring.  I don’t think we are bad in Canada, but I think we care less than we used to and it evidences itself in our carelessness at times.

5.  Let’s be better people individually too (not just collectively).  Individuals make up society.  Where are the values being inculcated into our individual lives?  The education system works here—tremendous values are being taught to our children.  But not morals. “Morals” are the responsibility of the home many say. Okay, but the home is struggling.  How about the “church” then?  Don’t laugh, and don’t dismiss it.  In an empty even dark world, a candle is a bright light.  If I were giving advice to Canadians, I’d encourage them to find a church, a good one, where they are reminded of nobler higher values than themselves–like loving their neighbour and loving God.  Of remembering the poor.  Of not letting evil go unchecked.   Of realizing there are consequences for our actions.

145 years ago Canada was born.  Our half siblings to the south founded their family on the separation of church and state.  We founded ours on the partnership of church and state.  We agreed that each had a role, and each had a right to speak to each other.  As a churchman I am not offended when the secular politician/statesman/secularist points out to me that “I am not doing my job”.  I would agree.  If we have lost our moral compass, who will provide it if not the Church?

Thank you.