I lived overseas for almost a decade. During that time I was frequently mistaken for an American and often had to correct people, telling them that, in fact, I was Canadian. I was living in an Asian country, so the assumption that I was American was probably natural. But it got me thinking.
A Sense of Irritation
First, why did it irritate me so much? America is a much larger country, and more powerful. It would probably be the first country that would come to mind if someone heard me speak. Canada only has one tenth of America’s population. If I were someone else guessing my nationality, I would guess American too.
What does it mean to be Canadian?
But it really got to me. Perhaps because I wasn’t living in Canada I felt more strongly Canadian. I can remember becoming deeply proud of my Canadian identity, more so than if I had been living in Canada. Something else happened as well. It was painful, but had a positive result. I started to ask myself what it really meant to be a Canadian.What was a Canadian anyway? Of course, I knew I had Canadian citizenship, but I came to realize that I didn’t really understand Canadian history or culture.
A great nation. Dismantled?
So I dove in. I read as much Canadiana as I could get my hands on. I got to know the heroes of Canadian history from Sir Isaac Brock to Wilfred Laurier, from Banting and Best to Gretzky. What I discovered both thrilled and alarmed me. Here was this great nation, once part of the British Empire, a place people had fought and died for, a nation based on traditions going back to the Magna Carta, a place that had made its way into the fellowship of highly developed nations, and it was being dismantled.
A new “Social Justice Open Zone.”
It may seem that I was unduly alarmist, but,on reflection, I don’t think so. As my pride in Canada increased so did my understanding that my nation was being taken apart. I left Canada in 1989, a year after the Multicultural Act took effect. When I returned, in 1996, things were different. Canada was on its way to becoming a “non nation.” All of the Canadiana I had taken so much time learning was being phased out, and Canada the new “social justice open zone,” was being created.
A Narrative of Guilt.
Suddenly, guilt about my traditional Canadian heritage was being pushed, not only on me, but on everyone around me. We had been wrong to establish this Eurocentric racist nation that had exploited minorities and oppressed the “other.” Sir John A. Macdonald was a racist drunk, not the heroic author of the 72 resolutions, a man who had overcome personal tragedy to forge a nation from “sea to sea.” Canadians now needed to change. We had somehow become willful oppressors who had kept others down, and had to re-examine our shameful past.
Apologies started flying thick and fast for every conceivable offence, some justified, but others ridiculously exaggerated. Was I wrong in thinking this way? I had a moment of doubt, but then realized I wasn’t. What, I asked myself, was going on here? One apology is sufficient, and, if we really feel we ought to issue it, then fine. But the “fishing expedition” for apologies to every conceivable group, and some to groups manufactured out of our collective “social guilt” only cheapened the meaning of justice.
Sorry. You have no identity, and don’t deserve one.
What was the point of all this diminishment, this new sense of shame about Canadian history and identity? As time went by I came to understand that it was designed to eliminate traditional Canadian identity, to dismantle the nation we knew, and sadly, it wasn’t even being disguised. Our current prime minister, for example, has told us that we have no mainstream culture, that we are racists, who need to change, that he is disappointed in us, and that we have no business defining ourselves by language, custom or established history.
Re-establish Canadian Pride and Identity.
Quite apart from the distasteful arrogance of these statements, perhaps an inherited family trait, there is the simple fact that he is wrong. Canada, as I discovered, has a wonderful, historic national identity. It is time to re-establish it, not diminish it or turn Canada into an international holding zone, something that may please people in Geneva or New York, but certainly won’t please or benefit us.
Be proudly, traditionally, Canadian.
So, be proud of your traditional Canadian identity. As Canada day approaches don’t celebrate your nation as a vague liberal concept but as a clearly defined country with a proud past and great future. It is a concrete, definable, wonderful nation, complete,as our national motto expresses it, “A Mari Usque ad Mare.” “From Sea to Sea.”