A whole new dimension to the day of red and white

Russ Oehmen
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Canada Day has always been a celebration of many meanings.

There is the historical significance of July 1, the day in 1867 when a group of colonies united in what would become the country of Canada.

There is the seasonal milestone: the first long weekend and official kickoff to summer.

There is the sentimental significance of a holiday that brings bands marching and flags waving in celebration of something that draws individuals into communities, and communities into a nation.

There is another dimension now that red, the colour of our maple leaf, has become the colour of support for our troops overseas.

And this year, with so many of our soldiers toiling on dangerous ground and too many lost in the battle for freedom, red is no longer just a shade of clothing: it is a symbol of brightness on a dark horizon.

It can be difficult to know if our troops are making a difference in a nation that has been at war with itself and others for generations.

It can be hard to accept that our military is doing the right thing when each week brings news of another life lost in battle. But despite the uncertainty, our deployed soldiers and their loved ones at home are steadfastly doing their duty in the belief that military action now will eventually bring freedom to people who deserve it as much as you and I but have never had the opportunity to experience it.

Do the political and cultural affairs of a tiny country half a world away really have any bearing on our life here? I believe they do.

We are indeed a global village, where thoughts and actions circle the world at great speed and with little regard for borders or distance.

Oppressors of freedom - be it in worship, education, or economic prosperity - are not consigned to a certain city or country and if allowed to flourish, they spread their oppression in a widening circle that can engulf any country, including ours. Taking action against the oppressors, assisting the oppressed in determining and pursuing their own paths, not only strengthens a far-off country and culture; it protects our future quality of life as well.

In the meantime, we here in Canada continue to enjoy a life that is of a quality unparalleled in most parts of the world. We owe that in part to the commitment of our soldiers and also to their families, who keep the homefront on a steady course in the face of long, uncertain separations.

This Canada Day, many families will be apart as soldiers continue their deployment in the Middle East, and that does not look to change any time soon.
So, we celebrate what we have: a good quality of life, a great summer ahead, and a national holiday perfect for a neighbourhood block party, family picnic, or quiet evening savouring the sea air.

We wear red and raise a flag to honour our country and the many men and women who risk their lives fulfilling not only their military duty but their country's moral commitment to a people in need. And, we think ahead to what we want to see in life next Canada Day, and what we can do to get there.

It's a celebration of many meanings, all of them important.

Whatever you choose, remember and enjoy, with all your heart.

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