As we approach Canada’s 150th, it is a good time to reflect on our past, check in with the present and use that knowledge to steer us in a future direction.

Retired astronaut Chris Hadfield’s Canada 150 tour takes a look at the broad strokes of human and Canadian history. From single-celled organisms to complex civilizations, his presentation discusses how our nation has been shaped by immigration and diversity, and how “we are all just people, trying to do our best in this world, regardless of race or religion.”

With every news day bringing more stories of acts of terrorism and violence often originating from differences in religious or ideological values, this statement is more than just a superficial observation. It moves past all of the political and social constructs and strikes right to the core of human existence.

Truth is, none of us know what the “end game” is, all we have are guesses, at best. Even if those guesses are written down as stories prophesying our fate–they are still guesses. At its most basic level, we are sophisticated animals striving ahead, trying to do what we think is best.

Turns out though, even with the best of intentions, we also make a lot of mistakes. The Indian Act and residential schools are two of Canada’s biggest mistakes.

Which brings me to my point – what can we learn from the past to apply to our lives now? What can be learned from the last  150 years of history and be applied to the life of each and every individual?

I think there are three main learnings:

  1. Lose the ego – it has no place in building community or understanding – even though you have the best of intentions, pause before making decisions that impact other people and be willing to concede if it turns out your idea isn’t the best for everyone after all. This requires a high level of personal honesty, emotional intelligence and taking the time to understand those around you.
  2. Be humble – we all make mistakes. The worst part of dealing with the aftermath of an error is the inability to acknowledge it exists. This prevents proper repair and reconciliation.
  3. Be open – we are all judgemental jerks. We can’t help it, it’s in our nature. But, being aware of it helps to diffuse any impact it might have on our decisions or actions. So next time you catch yourself making a snap judgement, try compassion instead.

Moving forward into the future will require a heightened level of awareness, understanding and compassion. These will help us build lives and communities that don’t have room for hatred, violence and racism. I suggest we all make time to learn more about the cultures in our workplaces, cities and country. This will help secure Canada’s future in the world as a nation that supports growth and opportunity for everyone.

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