Thirty years ago, I arrived at UW’s campus an eager undergrad with a bad perm. My 80s hair and I were soon swept up in the excitement and energy of the campus – not only the academics but also student life, including a role helping to plan the (then much smaller) Canada Day celebrations for the Federation of Students.

This year’s event offered a terrific opportunity to celebrate my 30th, UW’s 60th and Canada’s 150th.  It was with patriotic and collegiate pride that I attended this year’s sesquicentennial on the UW campus with 65,000 of my closest friends.

The event was as Canadian as Canadian gets. Here’s my top 6 list as a proud alumnus and Canuck:

1. Niceness overload. Canadians are known for our politeness. As the New Yorker magazine recently observed, Canadians “listen, wait and compromise.” My 65,000 friends were certainly polite, forming orderly lines at the food trucks and swag tents, clapping at cultural performances, picking up their own garbage, and singing our anthem in almost perfect harmony. The only jerk was the jerk chicken (a big hit with the crowds). If Roots hasn’t already selected a winner for their Canada’s Nicest Person contest, they should visit Waterloo.


2. Our very own Mountie. OK, I realize Ottawa may have had a few more of them. But ours was so incomparably popular I’m certain that even if the entire Kardashian clan swooped in, our Mountie would have out-selfied them. Kar who?


3. An all-Canadian band. Sure, Ottawa had Bono but we had the all-Canadian Tom Cochrane, a homegrown boy and recipient of the Order of Canada. So, instead of sitting in traffic on the highway, we got to sing along to Life is a Highway.

Tom Cochrane

4. Celebrating diversity. Canada’s multiculturalism was on full display at the UW event. From the on-stage performances by local cultural groups to the speeches from our MP Bardish Chagger and UWaterloo’s very own former President and now Governor General David Johnston (joining by satellite because we share him with the country now), the message was loud and clear: Everyone is welcome here.


5. The spirit of giving. It takes a village to raise an event like this one – in our case, Village 1 and Village 2. Close to 100 volunteers, almost all of them students, worked this event like pros. They endured torrential rain and smiled until the sun came out. There are few things more Canadian than giving. In fact, Canada ranks third on the World Giving Index, just behind Ireland and Australia. Special thanks to our UW volunteers and the staff who guided them through a flawless event.


6. The poutine routine. It’s rumoured that Tim Hortons added a poutine-flavoured doughnut to its menu for Canada's 150th, but the cheesy delight was only available in the United States. No fear: the real deal figured prominently at UW’s Canada Day. Even though I’m an English grad, I did the math: The Waterloo poutine truck line stretched almost as far as the highway Tom Cochrane sang about. That gravy-laden carb fest shared by thousands probably explains the extreme chillaxing I observed as dusk approached and the skies lit up over Columbia Lake.

Food trucks

Thanks, UW, for a day of true Canadian hospitality. You covered it all from A to Zed.