© David Watts, July 2000


I am the Canadian hero.

I am the women, men and youth who held this country together and gave it character.

I have many faces:

Aboriginal and immigrant

Worker and entrepreneur

Combatant and conscientious objector

I lived in many times and places—some before there was a Canada

It was called Nootka and New France

Nunavut and British North America

Rupert’s Land, and the Land of the Big Dipper.

I served many causes and under many banners, some opposed to each other.

I have many names:

Jeanne Mance and others of Canada’s pilgrim mothers, who had visions of a healing community at the meeting of two great rivers in the New World

Madeleine de Vercheres, the 15 year old who held a fort for three days against an Iroquois attack

Maquinna, the 15 year old princess who inherited the leadership of the Nootka tribe

Juan Quadra, who used his friendship with a coastal chief not to undermine his rivals, but to make them welcome

Laura Secord, who ran ahead of an invading army to alert the defending garrison

Terry Fox, who ran two-thirds of the Trans Canada Highway on the first Marathon of Hope

George Stephen and Donald Smith, who were ready to go down to personal ruin to build the Canadian Pacific Railway from sea to sea

Inspector James Walsh, who befriended Sitting Bull and obtained a safe haven for the Sioux in Canada

Gabriel Dumont, who led the Metis in a struggle for their rights

Agnes McPhail, who swam against the tide as one of the first women in Parliament

Tommy Douglas, who led the CCF and New Democratic Parties that gave us medicare

Therese Casgrain, who led the struggle for women’s rights, and later the CCF, in Quebec

And many other men and women unknown to us, but whose patient endurance was as heroic as those whose names we celebrate.

I am the Canadian hero. I did not seek to become famous but simply to serve, to leave my country and the world a better place.

My motto, “They desire a better country” is written around the shield on the Canadian coat of arms. It is the theme of the Order of Canada.

It comes from an ancient letter honoring heroic men and women of old, some from before recorded history began:

These all died in faith, not having received what was promised but seeing and greeting it from afar… For people who speak thus make it clear they are seeking a homeland… They desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, and has prepared for them a habitation.

I am the Canadian hero.

In many ways I am like other Canadians. Look at these and see yourself:

That’s what it means to “re-member”. (4 min. reading time)

(To be recorded to musical background:

Schubert Symphony No. 5 in Bb major)