Saturday, May 6, 2017

Celebrating Canada’s 150th Anniversary—Like a Canadian…

This year Canadians celebrate 150 years of existence as a nation. You won’t necessarily see a big demonstrative splash. We are not as stridently patriotic as some. Canadians’ love for our country flows more like a deep and silent river; in nuances and tones of “belonging”, rather than shouts and cries of “us and them.”

We are a northern country. The boreal forest covers over three quarters of our nation. The Huffington Post recently published a rather cavalier article on Canada that suggested it was 90% “empty” (of people, that is). I was offended by this off-hand designation from a totally people-centric perspective. It disregarded all other life. Life that for Canadians is an integral part of Canada and forms who and what we are as Canadians. This mostly “emptiness” is full of life and all that supports it—pristine wilderness, with its own intrinsic value gives Canada its unique “face.” It is, in fact, this very “emptiness” that may well prove to be the salvation of the entire planet.

Canadians love this country for its forests, parks, mountains, rivers, lakes, and wetlands. We love the northern beauty of the Arctic and the vast rolling Prairies. “We base our national identity on nature,” writes David Richard Boyd, environmental lawyer, in Sustainability Within a Generation (David Suzuki Foundation, 2004). “From the maple leaf on our flag to the wildlife on our currency. Individual Canadians enjoy a deep-rooted connection with the natural world.”

For instance, 98% of Canadians view nature in all its variety as essential to human survival. Ninety percent of us consider time spent in natural areas as children very important. Eighty-five percent of us participate regularly in nature-related activities such as hiking, bird watching, and fishing. “Canadians are among the most staunchly pro-environment citizens on the planet,” Boyd writes. “Nine out of ten Canadians rate the environment as one of their top concerns. Eight out of ten Canadians believe that environmental protection should be given priority over economic growth.” This represents the highest proportion of support for environmental protection in the thirty countries surveyed by Environics International.

Vote for Canada’s National Flower

So, what am I doing to celebrate this beautiful country that has given me a place and a home? I’m going to vote for our national flower. A campaign was launched as part of our 150th birthday to name the flower of Canada. Sonia Day of the Toronto Star provided the short list of three flowers:

Hooded ladies tresses
Hooded ladies tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana), a wild orchid discovered in Canada’s north with white flowers arranged in a twisting pattern around the stalks.

Twinflower (Linnaeus borealis), a short plant with matching pairs of pretty bell-like pink flowers.

Bunchberry (Cornus Canadensis). This diminutive dogwood forms a carpet of leaves in shady moist areas of forests and woodlands. The flowers are an aggregation surrounded by four white petal-looking sepals; in the fall the flowers turn into bright red berries.

Bunchberry flowering
Bunchberry fruiting
All three are native in every province and territory of Canada; this is a feat when one considers our diverse biogeoclimatic areas. Selection criteria included the need for the flower to naturally exist in every part of Canada. They also took the Latin name into consideration. “Borealis” (meaning northern) and “Canadensis” (meaning from Canada).

My personal favourite is Bunchberry. It is truly Canadian, preferring Canada to anywhere else, and I grew up with this plant, which flourished in the woodland behind my house.

To vote go to
The deadline is June 30 and the winner will be announced July 1, Canada’s birthday.


Boyd, David R. 2004. Sustainability within a Generation: A New Vision for Canada. Vancouver. David Suzuki Foundation. Online:

Boyd, David R. 2003. Unnatural Law: Rethinking Canadian Environmental Law and Policy. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Environics International. 1999. Public Opinion and the Environment 1999: Biodiversity Issues. Opinion poll conducted for Environment Canada. http;//

Statistics Canada. 2000. Human Activity and the Environment, 2000. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada; Baxter, James. 2000. Canadians not Happy with Liberal Spending Priorities. Edmonton Journal. 7 October, E19.

Pynn, Larry. 1999. Environment Tops Poll of Canadian Concerns: The High Ranking Given Pollution and Conservation Issues is Being Attributed to an Improving Economy. Vancouver Sun. 20 September, A4.

Boyd, David R. 2003. Unnatural Law: Rethinking Canadian Environmental Law and Policy. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit for the latest on her books. Nina’s recent book is the bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” (Mincione Edizioni, Rome). Her latest “Water Is…” is currently an Amazon Bestseller and NY Times ‘year in reading’ choice of Margaret Atwood.

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