WE interviews noteworthy Canadians about building a more caring and compassionate country.

Text by Staff | Above portrait by Christopher Wahl

 

The Canada Day long weekend is upon us, and with it comes a slew of events and activities to fill your calendar with on July 1st. And, given that this year’s celebration finds itself on the heels of the Toronto Raptors NBA championship (#HeStay), one can expect the country to be especially patriotic.

Revelry aside, whether your plan is to sample a new barbecue recipe for your family on the backyard grill or head to the park to catch fireworks with friends, why not also make time for a moment of reflection on exactly what it takes to be a good Canadian.

Below, Canadian artists, athletes and influencers weigh in on the subject, while sharing their love for The North.


Mark O'Brien. Actor.
Photography by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao

 

Describe the core values of your ideal Canada?

MO: My ideal Canada is kind, welcoming and supportive. That’s what makes me proud to be Canadian. I’ve personally witnessed so much kindness and support throughout my career as an artist. I don’t believe that happens everywhere. As a Newfoundlander, I feel like it’s a real community, we have each other’s back and are proud of our successes and ambitions.

What small action have you taken to secure a brighter future for our county tomorrow?

MO: I’m an artist and sometimes it’s a ruthless business. I always make sure to acknowledge others in their artistic pursuits. I believe the arts have a tremendously positive and powerful influence upon everyone, and when you can support and acknowledge other artists, it breeds creativity on a higher plane. In the future, I’d really like to start creating arts programs for young people. I believe there’s nothing more powerful than art, and I’d love to give young people an opportunity to start flexing those muscles.

How can Canadians help better the country?

MO: I think accepting and respecting the views of others is a necessity for any country. This isn’t primarily a Canadian concern for me, it’s a worldwide one.


Hannah Alper. Activist, Blogger, and Author.

Photography by Ted Belton

 

Describe the core values of your ideal Canada?

HA: Honest, kind, compassionate, and caring. My ideal Canada would be a country that accepts, honours and celebrates people for being who they are. I want a Canada where there’s compassion. The only way we can do that is through small actions that create a culture of kindness and love.

What small action have you taken to secure a brighter future for our county tomorrow?

HA: My motto has always been: little things add up to make a big difference. That could be holding a door open for someone. It can be getting educated on an issue like Truth and Reconciliation or the environment; and then, after you’re informed, to educate others. It could be standing up for someone being bullied.

How can Canadians help better the country?

HA: I think that’s a huge issue with my generation, we need to listen to people. When we listen, we can be there for them and they’ll feel appreciated.


Cara Gee. Actress.
Photography by Christopher Wahl

 

Describe the core values of your ideal Canada?

CG: The philosophy that we must endeavor to look after one another. One thing that we celebrate here in Canada is our healthcare system. I certainly don’t take that for granted, but not everything that everyone needs is covered. We are very fortunate, but we could do better even still. We need to look after each other. We cannot rest on our laurels or think we are beyond improvement.

What small action have you taken to secure a brighter future for our county tomorrow?

CG: Knowing what causes are important to me and doing research so to have an informed opinion.

How can Canadians help better the country?

CG: We have to look back and reconcile. What that will mean to each and every individual Canadian will be personal. There are people who have been here for generations and there are people new to this land; we’re all Canadians. Canada, as a land, is much older… acknowledging and accepting that is key to moving forward.


Andrew De Grasse. Sprinter and 2016 Olympic medalist.

Photography by Ted Belton

 

Describe the core values of your ideal Canada?

ADG: Tolerant, ambitious and compassionate.

What small action have you taken to secure a brighter future for our county tomorrow?

ADG: I heard about the high school athletes from my old track club who couldn’t afford the travel costs to get to an important meet in the U.S. I thought back to 2013, when I received the support I needed to get to the Pan American Junior Championships, and I wrote a cheque to the Speed Academy.

How can Canadians help better the country?

ADG: Be inspired by the success of others and pursue your own ambitious goals.


 

Cameron Bailey Toronto Film Festival Artistic Director

Photography by Christopher Wahl

 

Describe the core values of your ideal Canada?

CB: We stay curious about each other. We learn. We keep our eyes open to each other and to the world.

What small action have you taken to secure a brighter future for our county tomorrow?

CB: I try to be more vocal in advocating for change. I try to remind myself and others that our time is limited and we should use it to make positive change as best we can.

How can Canadians help better the country?

CB:Get out of your enclave and mix it up. Too many of us fall into social circles where everyone around us thinks, talks and even looks like us. Canada’s genius is its diversity, but that works best when we know each other up close.


Clare Moreau. Author and speaker.

Photography by Christopher Wahl

 

Describe the core values of your ideal Canada?

CM: Compassionate, open-minded, empowered, educated, and engaged in the world.

What small action have you taken to secure a brighter future for our county tomorrow?

CM: The profits from my book Kakuma Girls will go entirely to fund university education in Canada for the girls of the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Having been pen pals and friends with these girls, I know that the contributions they will make to the world—within Canada and outside our borders—will be incredible. Having a way to support their goals to make an impact and a difference makes me feel amazing. I think supporting the education of young women worldwide can only benefit Canada as a whole.

How can Canadians help better the country?

CM: Find a way to get engaged. Find a way to get passionate about something and follow through with that. There’s a fear of starting something and it not being enough—people need to stop being afraid of that. All the kids out there who want to do something, they need to know it’s enough to send a letter.

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