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COLUMN SIX: Being Canadian

1949 essay rings truer than ever

BY SHIRLEY LAZARETH
Special to the VOICE

In 1949, as graduating students in Grade 13, we were asked to write an essay on Canadian Citizenship. At 17, my age then, I was just becoming aware of the benefits of being a Canadian citizen and the war years 1939-45 had left an indelible mark on my concept of patriotism. Now, at age 84, soon to be 85, I am fully aware that my life here in Canada, here in Ontario, here in Fonthill, has been enhanced because of who I am—one of Canada’s proud citizens. We must never lose sight of our bounty and our blessings. Happy Birthday, Dear Canada.

CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP

Senior Essay—First Prize

Recently I read the tragic story of Philip Nolan, “The Man Without a Country.” Several lines of this poem, familiar to all Canadians, remain firmly in my mind.

“Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said
This is my own, my native land!”

To be without a country you can call your own! Can we who are Canadians by birth or design realize the true meaning of that tragic statement? Every child born in Canada is from birth a Canadian citizen and may grow up in the love and protection of that one word —citizen. He may feel free to worship in the church of his own choice whether he is Protestant, Jew or Catholic. He may express his views on the governing of his country by voting for the party of his choice and it is the duty of every eligible Canadian to exercise this privilege.

In the present day almost everyone can have a career. School guidance directs us from childhood. Scholarships help those who otherwise would be unable to further their education. In regard to careers, doctors, nurses, teachers and all social workers are fulfilling their duty as good citizens by helping others. They realize the many benefits they receive as Canadian citizens and are trying to repay their mother country.

To be a good citizen does not mean “receive-only.” To be a true citizen one must give. My idea of a good citizen is one who does all

he can to make his mother country proud of him. He takes an interest in the town council. He is an active member of Parent-Teacher Associations in the school his child attends. He goes “all out” for Youth Recreation. This citizen is willing to donate generously to any charity. Come rain or shine, he will go out and vote, for he knows that is the only way to have a successful government. In time of war, he will take up arms to defend his native land. He will buy war certificates and bonds and will try not to complain of shortages, long hours of toil and rationing.

It seems to me that citizenship is taken too much for granted. We Canadians are fortunate to live in a country where we are allowed freedom of speech, religion and the press. Each year thousands of immigrants flock to Canada. They know the meaning of persecution but they also know the meaning of citizenship. It is the shining goal in the not too distant future. For them it is protection and security and a country of their own choice. What then does citizenship mean to us who are Canadians by birth? If all Canadians would look upon citizenship as something to cherish and honour we would all be better citizens for Canada to claim as her own. In closing may I quote a stanza from Lurana Sheldon’s “The Naturalized Alien.” To me this should be the feeling of all loyal Canadian citizens.

The land I claim claims me!
It holds me sacredly its own, and I
For its best welfare will both fight and die
If such a sacrifice will be
Part of the great necessity.

Shirley Rodgers
Grade 13
1949

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