Who do you identify with, or rather what nation or country do you identify with? This was a big question as Canadians celebrated Canada’s 150th year of confederation this week. This does not have to be the divisive question that it appears to have become. What has become even more divisive are the ideas of “Canadian values”. In an unfortunate turn of events, the use of the term itself has become a negative value, where our Canadian values are used to divide rather then being seen as what brings people together. The term Canadian values should be retired, never to be used again – unless for intentional (negative) use against one particular political party.
Can we refer to what Canadians are/Canada is as ideals?
We can split the idea of a Canadian identity to who we are and who do we identify with. They will not always s be the same, nor should they; it may be a more truthful way of looking at ourselves in the Canadian mirror. For example, I am a second generation Dutch-Canadian. My parents arrived in Canada in the mid fifties in Montreal and headed to Hamilton where my mother’s brother Lex had settled after arriving years earlier in Canada from the Netherlands. They later settled in the suburbs of Toronto first in Scarborough and then onto Mississauga where they reside today. I am a Dutch Canadian, I cheer for both the Canadian and Dutch teams during the Olympics, World Cup and other international events. I subscribe to the twitter feed of the Dutch Prime Minister and receive their latest news in my inbox.
However, I identify with being a Canadian, I identify with the ideas that Canadians are fair, open-minded, friendly and accommodating. That is what I see from my perspective; there will be others who will not share this with me. Historically Canada has brought these ideals forward, but we also have not been so good, with good (but misdirected) intentions. These ideals allow us to move ahead to make amends, apologize and act to correct our past actions.
Canada Day, Canada’s 150th, was a day where our past came face-to-face with our present and future. Protests from Canada’s First Nations on Parliament Hill highlighted that we have some way to go before all who identify with being Canadian, part Canadian or not a Canadian at all, are content with how Canada as a nation represents them.
Our Prime Minister commented on Canada Day that new Canadians might feel more proud to be Canadian than those of us who were born here. I disagree and feel he misrepresented the pride of all Canadians. There were only few ‘Canadians’ here when Canada was first thought of, first as far away provinces of the Crown and then as a country on its own. As citizens of Canada, 97% of Canadians have roots that are not from here. We all came from somewhere, French-Canadians, Dutch-Canadians, Italian-Canadians, Indo-Canadians and many more may not feel less of Canadian pride, but it has become who we are and our identity when we remember our past and relish the present and future.
We have a long way to go to recognize the contributions of our Inuit, Cree, Metis and other First Nations. We have a long road to travel to reach appeasement for the actions of previous governments. Nowhere though do Canadians as a whole feel we should not reconcile with our past – it is part of our open-mindedness to recognize that our future as a country lies in part with our history.
It’s our Canadian identity that makes it easy to see the path and who we are.
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