Queen Victoria's vision for a united Canada is an ongoing progress, writes Youth Speak News' Emily Barber. public domain

Speaking Out: Queen Victoria’s vision for a united Canada still needs work

By  Emily Barber, Youth Speak News
  • May 19, 2017

Victoria Day, which falls on May 22 this year, is much beloved by Canadians, though we suspect the reasons have less to do with paying tribute to the British monarch than enjoying its accompanying long weekend.

Still, as wonderful as an extra day off in the late May sunshine is, the significance of this holiday is worth considering.

Queen Victoria, the Mother of Confederation, was the monarch who finally granted Canada the freedom to make its own laws and govern its own country with minimal British intervention in 1867. She encouraged a nation that had pitted European against First Nation, English against French, Protestant against Catholic, to set aside its differences and become one united Canada. As we approach Canada’s 150 birthday on July 1, let us take a moment to see how Queen Victoria’s vision for a united nation has played out so far.

Unfortunately, the pages of Canada’s history are splattered with injustice, discrimination and difficulty. The residential schools aimed at incorporating aboriginals into mainstream Canadian culture, failing to recognize Canada as a bilingual country until 1969 and the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II are just some of the issues that illustrate our country’s continuous struggle to become a safe and inclusive haven for all people.

Even now, many issues are on the table that have Canadians questioning ethics and the law: the promotion of abortion in developing countries, immigration policy, relations with our neighbour to the south and the legalization of euthanasia to name a few. Though we have definitely made progress as a nation, becoming a peaceful and united Canada is an ongoing process, and a dream that perhaps can never be fully realized.

Yet, I still feel there is reason to be hopeful for Canada’s future. As a Catholic, I can use my faith to shape my decisions and my opinions in a way that can not only stay true to my beliefs but also benefit society as a whole. And while I do not have the power to change legislation or decide the direction of Canadian policy, I can raise dissent or draw attention to issues. I can write, I can protest, I can cast my vote with care.

If I, as an individual, can do all that, just think of the possibility of an entire nation crying out with one collective voice for equality and peace throughout the world.

We may have our differences, but if we could come together and give idealism a chance, perhaps real change could be made.

So, on this Victoria Day, as we look ahead to Canada Day, celebrate with a hopeful heart and a reflective mind. Remember the past with all its successes and failures. Be mindful of the present with all its joys and trials. Embrace the future with all its uncertainty and possibility.

Happy Victoria Day!

(Barber, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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