The sun shone down on a capital region saturated in a sea of red and white yesterday, as Canadians painted with smiles and maple leaves celebrated their heritage.

On the one holiday truly connecting all citizens, grateful Canucks wore their national pride loud and proud at Edmonton’s landmarks yesterday.

Standing in a sea of smiling faces at the legislature grounds, George Papay said dreams of our country’s staple institution were great enough that he was drawn to the Great White North from his home country of Slovakia in 1969.

“I was a boy growing up, watching hockey and just fell in love with it and the idea of the country,” Papay said. “Every time I saw maple trees or maple leaves, all I could think of was Canada.”

Amid a crowd of joyful expressions, tears streaked the faces of two German-born temporary foreign workers, whose dreams to live in Canada are just beyond their reach.

“We want so badly to live here. We wish we could celebrate as Canadians today,” said Otto Lamdwehr, holding his wife Inge’s hand. Work visas for the pair expired a few weeks ago, which will force the couple back to Germany. He said that when they arrive, all efforts will be to come back to Canada and stay as citizens.

Having successfully immigrated from Nairobi, Al-Karim Walji agreed becoming Canadian is the desire of millions of global citizens. Sitting on the grass while O Canada played in the background, he said he has learned that in no other country can immigrants truly sustain their cultural individuality.

“Canada gives us the opportunity for us to maintain our identities,” he said. “It is a country that does not belong to any one specific individual. It is open, and allows freedom to express opinions, beliefs and practices.”