I. Am. Canadian.

I’m staring out the window of a hotel in Jasper on the verge of tears, looking at fresh snow in the mountains peeking through low lying clouds, a gentle breeze on the lake below and a Canadian flag at half-mast.

Humans are storytelling creatures. The stories that we tell shape our history and culture. As Canadians, we sometimes question our sense of identity – the stories we’ve told and the stories we’re telling that shape who we are as a country and who we are as Canadians. In the wake of this week’s tragedies, mass media, politicians, schools and workers around the proverbial water cooler will in some way try to make sense of what has happened and how to deal with it. In doing so, there will be an underlying exploration of what it means to be a Canadian.

Canadian author John Ralston Saul wrote a book years ago called A Fair Country. In it, he presents a compelling argument that our character – the essence of who we are as Canadians is derived more from Metis people than of European settlers. It can be hard to imagine life being lived outside by the Metis when we are tucked into our heated homes with heated showers, scrolling through newsfeeds and eyes buried in some device. But our connection to the land – this vast, expansive land that is largely barren, has in fact shaped who we are as Canadians in the 21st century. We need to ensure that our story includes one of ‘getting out there’, whether that means a walk to the park down the street or paddling a canoe through one of thousands of lakes we are privileged to be stewards of. We can never underestimate, even through our love of technology, how fundamental the outdoors has been in shaping our Canadian identity.

In the days to come, we will hear more of the stories of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. In small ways, we will learn how their stories shaped the lives of those around them. And in a broader sense, we will begin to sense how their stories will shape our history and culture as Canadians. We are a country that indeed has glowing hearts, and will see rise the true north, strong and free. Part of that strength and freedom comes from our connection to this land and the time we spend outside. It’s a story that’s important to our history. And it’s a story that is crucial in shaping our culture and who we are as Canadians.

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