Diversity is welcome on Canada’s stamps

After looking over the 2017 stamp program, or at least what we’ve seen of it, it would be kind of easy to throw a few rocks at Canada Post.

There’s a lot of same old, same old: hockey, flowers, more hockey, birds, UNESCO sites and even photography are all getting a bit tired. But these are valid issues, and face it, sports subjects sell stamps to fans and that can be good both for sales and exposing new people to stamp collecting. Much of the really cool Canada 150 stuff has yet to be announced, so I am reserving judgement on that.

But I am really excited about the new holiday stamps.

That’s right, I think the Eid, Diwali and Hanukkah stamps are just plain fantastic and long overdue.

For most of my life, at least the last 50 years, Canada has boasted about being a tolerant nation that embraces other cultures. The Canadian mosaic, we were told, was lively and healthy, and so much better than the famed American melting pot.

Certainly for me, growing up as a first-generation Canadian with British parents, that certainly seemed true. But that may not have been the case for all of my friends and classmates.

They were always slightly marginalized, if only by being defined as “different.”

For them, stamps that showed wild animals we only saw in zoos, and which carefully paid service to our two founding cultures, didn’t really reflect their Canadian experience.

A few years ago, shortly after Deepak Chopra came to the head of Canada Post, we saw the first stamps honoring Eid, Diwali, and Hanukkah.

Those issues were not what any of us would call regular stamps.

They were special designs created by Canada Post using the personalized postage format. That put them in a similar category as John and Mary’s wedding invitation stamps, the precancelled stamps on commemorative envelopes, not quite regular stamps and not really deserving of proper catalogue numbers. Back of the book at best, philatelic non-entities at worst.

Even back then, I expressed the opinion that these subjects were worthy of inclusion in the stamp-collecting program. Truth is, I am a bit shocked that it took Canada Post this long to do what seemed like a really good idea several years ago.

Even so I was dismayed by the reaction of some collectors to the personalized postage stamps, who suggested they were in some way not quite appropriate. They were often referred to as “ethnics” in a manner that made me somewhat uncomfortable.

At that time I said much the same things I am saying now.

Modern Canadians come from all parts of the world. When they come to this country we tell them that we wish to respect their culture and beliefs and we expect them to respect ours. If that is true, then what is wrong with honouring these non-Christian holidays?

Nobody is forced to use a religious stamp. In the case of Christmas, we even go out of our way to issue festive stamps with no reference to religion at all.

Today, as we live in a society that is becoming more and more polarized, we need these stamps more than ever before. Within the laws of the land, we have probably more true freedom than any other nation on Earth. Such freedom is a right, not a luxury, and preserving that right both in ourselves and our neighbours is the only way we can be sure that it will survive in the future.

Fear and hate must be met with tolerance and love. Every great belief system in the world tells us that.

We have always talked up our country, saying it has some of the best values in the world. Embracing these stamps is our way of walking the walk.

I may get tired of seeing a never-ending parade of flags of stuff, but I hope these three new issues have a long a prosperous lifetime, and I look forward to seeing a few in my mailbox next holiday season.

If I am wrong, and these stamps are a bad idea, I would love to have someone set me straight.

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