Today is a special day, a day to celebrate our good fortune that circumstance allowed us to be defined as Canadian. Twenty years ago our neighbors from Taiwan became Canadian Citizens. Being there to witness their induction into the family of Canadians, made me realize just how much I took for granted. I was born into the identity stamped Canadian. The Chen family next door, like so many other families became Canadian Citizens by choice. When you think about it, it is a great honor for a nation to be so well thought of others want to be Canadian.
Canada has its faults for sure but it has more virtues making it a land so many want to be part of. We use the term multicultural and say, as such we believe in tolerance. I have wondered about the term, and questioned whether it describes how we should approach each other. Instead of tolerant I think we should strive to be more understanding of each others culture.
The reason I point this out is we as Canadians are really part of each others culture, as part of our society. As a country we are more than a series of historical events, or momentary heroic deeds, although we are defined by those single moments in history. Some things were done in our name, that were shameful, true.
We did not condone them, nor were we alive when certain injustices were carried out also true. All too often we say it had nothing to do with me. True as well. The difference we can make is this. Instead of excusing ourselves with recited platitudes, we can simply acknowledge the truth and together move on. If most citizens knew the full extent of some of the things that were done to indigenous peoples they would say nothing as they hung their heads in shame at what our forefathers did, and did to others too.
The other day someone said to me. “Those wanting to come here should have to prove they’re good Canadians. They should have to know more about Canada.” Instead of being offended I proceeded with questions. How does one define who is a good Canadian? Who writes the questions? What about those born Canadian, should they be questioned or privileged with a predetermined label? The truth is there is a test and questions about Canada. New Canadians in many cases could score higher because they had to study what we take for granted. If someone born here couldn’t answer the questions, what then? Are they good Canadians?
Yes, I was playing a game of twenty questions, to point out there is no set of intellectual questions that would prove with absolute certainty who is or is not a good Canadian. An attachment to one’s country is an emotional one not simply statistical facts on a page. For those left to question, there are requirements to being granted citizenship. No criminal record, and other official safeguards in a screening process. Yes sometimes the system fails.
Ours is a nation of immigrants, we celebrate each others successes because we all contribute to our collective advancement as a society.
To this end let me say Happy Canada Day to you all.