01/05/2017 11:36 EST | Updated 01/05/2017 11:44 EST

Canadians Have A Lot To Celebrate And Be Grateful For This Year

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Person holding a maple leaf

A new year is always a time to reflect and think about the future. This is a special new year. As Canadians, we are fortunate to celebrate our 150 anniversary. In so many ways we are a young country built by immigrants and the existing indigenous populations. Looking at the Canada 150 Twitter feed I was pleased to see a lot of pride and gratitude for the benefits of Canada and saddened to see it being used as a platform for criticizing the government instead of a place to reflect on what is great about Canada.

As someone who has travelled extensively inside and outside of Canada I am constantly grateful for what we have in Canada. Nature abounds from seascapes to mountains, rivers, lakes and waving fields of grain to mention but a few. Our cities, are growing yet are far from crowded and continue to increase in vibrancy and, yes, challenges from their increasing diversity of populations. We have charming small towns dotted throughout our countryside that provide for great opportunities to slow down a bit and to participate in the many festivals and unique businesses these communities offer every year.

While we still have a long road ahead of us, we continue to advocate for and advance equality for all in Canada.

In November, I was in India for two weeks for some touring and to attend an amazing wedding. While it is a fascinating and wonderful country with a lengthy history and different cultures and religions, the level of poverty, lack of infrastructure and chaos on their roads was difficult to see. I was very happy to see the paved streets in Canada and traffic that follows rules of the road.

That is not to say we do not have poverty in Canada because it is ever present. Yes, we have deplorable conditions on some of our First Nations' reserves and individuals struggling to make ends meet or to feed their children including immigrants and refugees. While we have no easy answers to remedy these conditions, we do have a mindset and a social safety net that speaks to supporting and helping those less fortunate. Our health-care system is not perfect, but neither is it the terrible health-care system of Donald Trump's imagination and it is accessible to all. We have the means and I believe the desire to continue to support improvement and innovation in an already strong system.

While we still have a long road ahead of us, we continue to advocate for and advance equality for all in Canada. Fairness as a concept appears to be strong and plays itself out in many positive ways when making decisions respecting the best interest of Canadians. Canadians are entrepreneurial and increasingly start and grow businesses that contribute to the economy and add products and services that enrich our country. A strong agriculture business sector allows us access to healthy and locally produced foods.

canadian produce farm

Sunset over a potato field in red earth, Prince Edward Island, Canada/Getty Images

As a nation, we have been blessed with an abundance of natural resources which can help fuel our economy with careful stewardship to protect our environment. Access to education is universal and both girls and boys attend school unlike a number of other nations where girls are left behind. Our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights legislation protects our fundamental freedoms and the courts and human rights commissions are here to provide remedies.

For me perfection is not the goal nor is it attainable. No government will ever satisfy all of our demands nor should we expect it of them. Fortunately, we do have a democracy where we can hold them accountable. All of us individually have a responsibility to contribute to the best of our ability wherever our strengths may lie. Our pioneering forefathers set the example when they came to this land and established settlements in conditions that were harsh given their tools and equipment. Indigenous Canadians lived on the land in harmony with the cycles of nature. None of the modern conveniences that we take for granted existed then.

Growing up poor in Saskatchewan, I had a taste of that life living in a basic shack with no running water or electricity. My father worked hard on his small farm to grow food for his family and to contribute to the broader community. My early life taught me to be resilient and to look out for others and to work hard to achieve my goals. On Canada's 150, I am grateful for everything that we have in Canada and I accept our imperfections as opportunities to show our humanity and to innovate to continue to become stronger.

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