I am writing this three days after we celebrated Canada’s 153rd birthday. I realize that almost a month will have passed before you read these thoughts. However, what I saw and heard that day has left me very concerned, and I need to share those concerns with you.
Canada Day 2020 was a very different day of celebration.
The traditions of picnics, barbecues, parades, festivals, concerts, and fireworks were not possible this year. Despite the limitations, I was so impressed by the families and communities who found creative and innovative ways of celebrating the day.
I missed not being able to watch the celebrations on Parliament Hill, but I won’t soon forget the mass choir’s beautiful rendition of “O Canada”, with each chorister singing in perfect harmony from their own home. The wonders of technology that boggle my mind!
Canada Day is the day when we celebrate our wonderful country and how proud we are to be Canadian. But not all of us are feeling that way.
It was the first time we celebrated Canada Day with protests right across the country.
These were expressions of frustration and disappointment, bitterness and anger. It left me feeling very sad.
I know that our country is far from perfect, that there isn’t social justice for us all, but that day I really felt our blemishes and scars. My thoughts have then gone to the change that has to happen. And I do think that our policymakers are very aware of the challenges we face as a nation.
Is there a role for the Women’s Institutes in this?
Unfortunately, I don’t have any easy answers. But there is a starting point for us all. When we attend Women’s Institute meetings, at any level, we begin those meetings repeating the meaningful words of the Mary Stewart Collect. Repeating the words together is not enough, we need to try to live the words we repeat.
I, for instance, have to be careful not to be “hasty in judgment”. I don’t always “put into action my better impulses” nor am I always “calm, serene and gentle”. Today, I particularly think of “without prejudice” and “may we strive to touch the human heart common to us all”.
What better way can we as WI members begin to meet the challenges facing us as a nation than to continue to live the words “O lord God, let us not forget to be kind.”
Ellen McLean has been an active WI member for close to seventy years. Throughout those years, she served in many roles including President of the Women's Institutes of Nova Scotia, President of the Federated Women's Institutes of Canada (FWIC) and President of the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW). Testimony to her excellent leadership and service, Ellen received an honorary doctorate degree from St. Francis Xavier University, been inducted to the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame, received the Order of Canada as well as being the first recipient of the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Women of the Year Award.