Canada is a mosaic; we don’t try to make everyone leap into a pot and melt our characteristics together. To me, that is one of the definitions of what it means to be Canadian. This topic recently came up among a group of my friends. It seems to me that at one time we and others questioned if there was such a thing as a unique Canadian identity. I think we are past wondering that now. We know who we are.
I still remember going to the citizenship ceremonies with my parents when we all became Canadian citizens. My father had received several booklets ahead to time that talked about Canada’s natural resources, agriculture and industry, history and politics. I read those booklets, too and ever since, have gone out of my way to discover what this country is about.
I recall my father saying once long ago that Canada had no writers. He was thinking of the long tradition of literature in Germany where we came from. So for Christmas that year I hunted up for him a little book of short stories written by Canadians. It included stories by W.O. Mitchell and Sinclair Ross. We now have writers known around the world – Margaret Atwood, Pierre Burton, Joseph Boyden, Margaret Laurence, Yann Martel, Lucy Maud Montgomery, William Gibson, Alice Munro, Leonard Cohen, Farley Mowat, and so many more.
And of course there are musicians, who are uniquely Canadian – Gordon Lightfoot, k.d. lang, Alanis Morissette, Barenaked Ladies, Diana Krall, Our Lady Peace, The Guess Who, etc. Artists – Robert Bateman, Mina Forsyth, Alex Coleville, Honor Kever, Lawren Harris, Martha Cole, Yousuf Karsh, William Kurelek, etc. And on and on.
To me being a Canadian means being polite, friendly and kind. Of course, we have people here who aren’t that way.
We don’t carry guns in our everyday life. My brother told me of his son who works in Saskatchewan Parks and teaches gun safety as well. He attended a gun safety workshop with people from various Canadian police forces, as well as Americans. At a break one of the Americans asked, “So what’s your personal weapon?” The Canadians all looked puzzled. “You know, the one that doesn’t belong to your police force that you have to leave behind at night. The one you carry to the grocery store.” He was astounded when the Canadians said, “We don’t carry a gun to the grocery store.”
We believe in public health care aka Medicare. We don’t consider it a Communist innovation.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2013 more than 9 in 10 Canadians believed that our Charter of Rights and Freedoms (just in case you don’t know what it says, check here: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html) and our national flag were important symbols of our identity. Next on the list were our national anthem, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and hockey. Further from that 2013 survey, “The majority of people believed that Canadians shared specific values. This was most often the case when thinking about the value of human rights (92%), and less often in relation to respect for Aboriginal culture (68%) and linguistic duality (73%).”
We pronounce words differently than some other English speaking peoples, and we have words and expressions that are uniquely Canadian (and no we don’t all say ‘eh’), many of them from our Aboriginal peoples – wapiti, toque, parka, lacrosse, biffy, Loonie, Twonnie, kitty corner, chinook, rink rat, and zed.
We aren’t afraid of minority governments.
We have paper money that is pretty as well as useful and doesn’t remind you of toilet paper.
We have fantastic national parks.
And though what we eat is eclectic, to match our mosaic culture, we have foods that may be hard to find elsewhere – butter tarts, Saskatoon berries, Nanaimo Bars, Canada Dry, Montreal smoked meat, Crispy Crunch chocolate bars, We love our Tim Horton’s (not all of us), and it’s difficult to find in other places.
Canadian inventions include insulin, Superman, basketball, Standard Time, canola, snowmobiles, the snow blower (what choice did we have? – we needed it!), the fog horn, sonar, the goalie mask, IMAX theatre, Trivial Pursuit, the electron microscope, Pablum, the caulking gun, the jolly jumper, Plexiglas, the McIntosh apple. I could go on.
We’re not afraid of winter, and though we may complain about it, many of us revel in it – walking, skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, etc. After all, for most of the country it lasts for several months. And we have great other seasons.
Canada is a conversation (I got this from the Canadian Encyclopedia - http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-identity/). I like that idea – a conversation is ongoing, between more than one person, an exchange of ideas that can encompass diversity, argument, change. Yeah!