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A waving flag

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It won't be when Barenaked Ladies play If I Had A Million Dollars.

Nor will it be when Our Lady Peace sings Somewhere Out There.

Instead, it'll be when a petite, goateed poet from Toronto performs a certain song at Whistler Medals Plaza. That's the moment I will feel proudest to be part of Canada during these Olympics.

My poet of charm will be wearing a flamboyant hat when he captures my heart and he will be staring defiantly into the crowd, microphone in hand, as he perches on the centre of the stage with his modest poise. Quietly, his voice will rise in volume, in urgency, as vowels roll off his tongue: "And any man who knows a thing knows he knows not a damn, damn thing at all."

From there he will launch into a rhyme in which he asks the crowd - and the world - how Mandela and Gandhi were able to peacefully fight for human rights despite the adversity they were faced with. And as snow flakes fall gently onto convivial faces in the heart of Whistler Village, my Canadian intellect will suppose they accomplished their goals because "to give is priceless."

The song will be sung, loudly, during a time when the world unites to watch athletes jostle amicably for gold - despite the fact sagas like the war in Afghanistan continue to unravel on the other side of the planet. In the face of this juxtaposition his lyrics will bring home the value of international sport competitions and, more broadly, of peace.

Yet, it won't simply be his message that will tip me over into salty tears on Feb. 26. Rather, it will also be the powerful representation, crystallized in a single moment, of my beloved country not just as a place defined by igloos and hockey but also by inclusion, acceptance and dedication to collective prosperity.

It will be a moment when we continue to assert ourselves as a land of countless ethnicities - of First Nation, Irish, French, German, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Swedish, Korean, Caribbean, English, African, Filipino and more. A land where more than 16 per cent of our people belong to visible minorities and where 20 per cent speak a mother tongue other than the official languages. A land where even as far back as 1867 we decided to guarantee that at least French and English could always be used in Parliament, in unity.

Yes, this is a nation of Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie, rolled into one, set against a landscape of mountains, seas, lakes, forests, deserts, prairies and tundra.

We may not be the political powerhouse that is the United States, nor are we their cunning competitor, China. Perhaps too, we shy away often from speaking loudly and are constantly joked about for being overly polite despite ourselves. But those qualities fade quickly from the limelight when we consider our other remarkable traits - those of being progressive, welcoming and kind.

So, it is with sentiment that I believe one of the most tangible examples of Canada's diversity will be when my Toronto poet sings at the Olympic awards ceremonies for alpine skiing, biathlon and bobsled.

Arguably one of Canada's most distinguished musicians these days, his life tells a story about the expansiveness of humanity; after escaping the civil war in Somalia, he went on to establish himself as a North American celebrity. His aunt was one of Somalia's most famous singers and his grandfather was a renowned poet. When his family arrived in Toronto in 1991, they settled into the city's multicultural framework in the Rexdale neighbourhood, where he started creating his sound.

Through Canada's inclusive circle, K'naan has been able to speak loudly about the difficulties his motherland has gone through, both through music as well as at United Nations presentations, and his charged lyrics constantly restated the importance of harmony on a human scale. In fact, one of his songs was chosen as the official anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup championships in South Africa.

If the Olympics are about nothing else they are about countries temporarily setting aside political differences to come together and play on an equal field. And what a powerful face K'naan will be to represent Canada on this stage.

It is for this reason that tears will stream down my face when I hear Take A Minute performed this February.

 

 

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