July 1st is Canada Day, a national celebration of the country we love.
In addition, Newfoundland and Labrador, the tenth province of Canada, commemorates the Battle of Beaumont Hamel, part of the Battle of the Somme in the First World War. For Newfoundlanders, today is also Memorial Day.
In that battle, Newfoundland, a small country of 250,000 people at the time, lost 324 men, while 386 were wounded. The morning after the battle, only 68 members of the Newfoundland Regiment answered the roll call. The loss of these young men was felt for generations. Today, we remember their bravery and sacrifice.
Thinking of our country today, I think of my family's two island homes, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.
The islands look so beautiful as seen from the International Space Station.
They are lovely at ground level of course, but looking at the NASA photos, I am struck by their isolation. This island of Prince Edward, nestled in the Northumberland Strait, has a fixed link to eastern Canada. It appears more protected than Newfoundland, which is out in the North Atlantic, off the edge of North America.
While these islands are not tropical or exotic, and are different in many ways, each holds family and friends, and is comfortable and familiar. Home.
Our country is huge, the second largest in the world. With only 35,000,000 people, it has vast wilderness, with the majority of the population living in cities. Rural Canada is in decline. However, with oceans to the north, east and west, we are influenced by the sea and for those of us who choose to live near the ocean, it is part of what makes us Canadian.
This link to the sea is well expressed in a song written and performed by Wayne Chaulk of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers. It speaks of life by the ocean, away from the bustle of the big city. It captures the essence of island life, our part of Canada.
Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians all over this great country. Each part of the country, with its geography, customs, traditions and people, makes us Canadian, different but one. We have much to celebrate.