Please add a comment to this blog below, define what it means to be Canadian in your own words.
Is it a national identity or is it a more regional affiliation, do you associate more with where you are or where you came from?
Let’s hear it.
Update: Very nice piece on Canada on NBC.
Ranting starts now…
After watching the Olympic Opening Ceremony, hearing about the official responses from our government leaders and reading the letters to the editor resulting from the ceremonies and the newspaper articles I am struck dumb by our continued inability to define ourselves and show the world who we are.
People like to say that we are more than the sum of our pieces, but I would be so bold as to say that Canada is currently much less than the sum of it’s pieces, simply because of our insistence on focusing on the pieces.
We define our nation using words like multiculturalism and regional and ethnic diversity. Words that do not draw us together as a nation, ideas that do nothing to promote unity but force us to establish a “small-i” individual identity instead of a “big-I” Canadian Identity. When we attempt to define Canadian we resort to defining what we aren’t, we are more European than that American, we are more American than the Europeans. We aren’t brass and bold, we aren’t abrasive or offensive.
Who are we?
We apologize for everything, we never take the offensive but are always willing to lend a helping hand. Sometimes you need, as a country, to be offensive, to take a stand, to have an opinion.
Our cultural modesty is pervasive. We vilify our most successful citizens, those who are drawn by their success to larger markets (the US) and in their triumphs become bigger than Canada. We claim they have sold out, have lost touch with their root, have become “too American”. We want our heroes to successful at home, to retain the cultural modesty in which we wrap ourselves. To be Canadian is to know your place and not reach beyond.
As a society we go to great lengths to remember where we come from, celebrating our cultural heritage, afraid to celebrate who we are. But in doing so we alienate the Canadians that have been here for generations.
We celebrate World Day in our schools and leave the poor Canadian boys and girls standing in the corner wishing they had a “nationality”.
My son came home the other day and asked me what nationality he was, I said he was Canadian, he said no, what was his real nationality. I said he was fifth generation (at least) Canadian, but that his grandparents were part French, Irish, English, Welsh and Scottish. He said he would go with Irish because his best friend was Irish. I asked if his friend was born in Ireland, he said no his grandparents were. I calmly tried to explain that his friend was Canadian as well.
He told me he understood but that he wasn’t allowed to be Canadian during World Day!
Is this what it has come to?
The ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity of the Canadian population makes this the best country in the world. I have friends and work with people that can trace their roots to all corners of the globe. I love experiencing other cultures, other religions, our diversity enriches everyone, but it shouldn’t define us. We should insist on defining ourselves in a way that brings us together.
And we as a population, the ever inoffensive silent population, just sit back and let our political leaders lead us down this path.
We need leaders that are not afraid to say the word Canadian with no prefix. Leaders that do not identify with one region or another, that are not Western Canadian or a Maritimer or Franco-Ontarian or Québécois but just Canadian.
Leaders that are not afraid to take a position and stand behind it, even if it is unpopular in their “region”.
We need to celebrate the successful among us and encourage them to do more. We need to be unafraid to reach for the moon and fail, knowing that in our failure we have learned and will be supported and encouraged in our next attempt.
It is time to stand up and define ourselves as something other than beer commercials, snowy roads, beavers and hockey.
I challenge you to define Canadian in a positive, unifying manner. Let’s make ourselves heard.