I love Canada and have many fond memories of Canada Day. One year when the children were very young and the Confederation Bridge was but a dream, we found ourselves waiting for the ferry to PEI. As we waited a band played 'O Canada' at the terminal and the children waded into a sea of lupins growing wild on the roadside. We have spent Canada Day on the road driving across this vast land and heard and seen afternoon picnics and recreational sporting tournaments in province after province with the same flag waving over all and with children's faces all painted with the same maple leaf. Once while returning from a family celebration north of the city, we drove through one small Ontario town after another at dusk. And the children were convinced each town was awaiting our arrival before setting off the first of the fireworks. Our land is vast and great and Canada Day is a magical celebration of the wonder of it all.
While we have travelled vastly in this country, I quickly came to realize whatever the day, Newfoundland is like no place. Small towns and hamlets on the eastern shore get their air conditioning on hot summer days from icebergs that float into their bay or inlet, and the warmest element of all is the hospitality of the people. Where else could one ask an innkeeper the whereabouts of the nearest laundry mat only to have them persuade you to leave it with them so you could make the most of your time on the rock?
You have to love Newfoundland, but don't expect to wake up to celebrations in St. John's on Canada Day. Ninety-nine years ago on July 1 before they had become part of this nation, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment having survived Gallipoli in Turkey emerged from the trenches at Beaumont-Hamel in the Battle of the Somme on the Western Front at 8:45 a.m. That day ninety percent of Newfoundland's fighting force was lost. Gone in a few hours was a generation of young men. Few other places made such a sacrifice during the war to end all wars and they paid the price in one day - July 1, 1916.
And so it is the citizens of the rock rightly spend the morning of July 1 marking the sacrifice of their forebears, with poppies and forget-me-nots at military memorials, but when the afternoon arrives and it is still morning in the rest of the country the mourning for the fallen is followed by celebrations of Canada Day. They are a big hearted people. How blessed we are to have Newfoundland in the family we call Canada. I say we all mark a moment of silence with them on the morning of Canada Day and remember the greatness of this land was only achieved by great sacrifice.
One year we were in Scotland on July 1 and spotted a Canadian flag flying from a window on the Royal Mile and one of the children in a loud voice wished everyone on the open upper level of the bus a Happy Canada day and started to sing 'O Canada.' It is a great land a great day and wherever you are, whether you are Canadian or not, I wish you the peace and goodwill of Canada.
Grace & Peace,