Statement on Canada 150

This July 1 we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.

Over the past 2 months of my campaign as I have traveled across our riding, I have been reminded that we have a lot to celebrate.

Northwestern Ontarians have always been enterprising people. Our rural and small-town communities are places of industry and perseverance, but also generosity and spirit. In many respects, our remoteness has built a sense of self-sufficiency and character – we don’t have the luxury of waiting around for far-away governments to build our economy, enhance our community, or support our neighbours in need. We are, classically, ‘caught in the middle’ – often culturally resembling western Canada more than Ontario’s south and east.

For better or worse, we are left to our own devices. Countless community initiatives, programs, service clubs, or committees have been formed and thrive in our region purely because of the determination of volunteers, the support of local business, and the belief that opportunities to bring people together to problem solve, celebrate, beautify, or advocate lifts us all up.

Our municipalities and councils have no career politicians – simply local residents contributing their time to make their community a better place to live. Our schools and churches often step up to fill needs where public services fall short. Area First Nations regularly share their culture and knowledge with their surrounding communities.

For all of this, we should be proud – and we celebrate on Canada Day.

But Canada 150 is a checkpoint, not a finish line.

I have also been reminded, during my travels, that there continues to be much work left to do to help our communities reach their full potential.

We are a region in transition – economically, socially, and demographically – and with this comes new challenges. In some of our communities, the dominant industry is changing. In others, growth is creating needs for new community services, such as childcare, so that young parents can take jobs. Too many of the services that larger centres take for granted are simply not available in our communities.

Much of our population is also aging, requiring communities to equip themselves to meet the needs of older adults – Fort Frances, for example, is currently developing an action plan to make the community ‘age friendly’. At the same time, almost half of the local First Nation population is under the age of 25 – a stage of life with very different service and support needs.

For others, Canada 150 is a sombre reminder that equality, opportunity, and justice remain just out of reach. For First Nations and Métis people, for example, “150” is simply counting the years since European settlement of these lands – several decades of which were devastating to Indigenous communities, families, and culture. Their story begins long before 1867, and continues to be written today. The report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission contains 94 Calls to Action, which ask each of us to consider how we, as individuals, communities, schools, and organizations can respond to this history and give voice to Indigenous people and history in our region.

Canada 150 is a time to celebrate our progress, but reflect on our trajectory. All of us have opportunities, knowledge, and talents to be change agents in the Northwest. As we reflect on how far we have come, I encourage everyone in Kenora—Rainy River to consider how they can make their community a better place to live in the years ahead.

Today, as you celebrate Canada, consider how tomorrow you can help move our region forward. Happy Canada Day!

Douglas Judson is pursuing the Ontario P.C. nomination in Kenora—Rainy River. Follow him at @dwjudson or email him at info@douglasjudson.ca.

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