Friday, March 24, 2006

This is Canada

Many months ago, I received an e-mail message entitled This is an article printed in the Toronto Star, CANADA full of the worst vitriol. Worse still, it was plagiarized vitriol, originally written by an American a number of years ago.

I'm embarrassed to admit that the sender fully supported the message. I wish I'd read John Ralston Saul's beautiful speech Citizenship, Immigration and Federalism: The Complexity of Modern Democracy in Canada before I'd responded to it, but I'm still satisfied with what I wrote:

I'm reading In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong by Amin Maalouf right now, and in it, he talks about how, depending on the current situation, an individual will associate with one part of their identity more than others (e.g., they're Catholic, or they're French, etc.), when, in reality, they're still the complex mix of cultures, histories, beliefs, etc. that they always were.

This culture has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom... We speak ENGLISH/FRENCH, not Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language...

I don't know how far back this guy wants to go, but I'll always be able to find examples to contradict him. This idea of Canada as a snapshot in time, after the war of 1812 or some such, is just silly. Canada, like every other nation around the world, is changing with each passing year, and how it is changing is all a matter of your perspective, what part of your identity you most strongly associate with today.

Let's look at some examples from 1921:

BC: English, 221145, Chinese, 23533...
ON: French, 248275, German, 130545...

Canada was much more than English and French, and many of the immigrants who spent time in internment camps during the two World Wars would question the universal freedom this guy speaks of.

Aside: I am not, in any way, disparaging the sacrifice made by the more than one hundred thousand brave Canadians who died in those two wars. I'm merely using it as an example of how perspective makes all the difference in the world.

God is part of our culture...

Christanity is part of our history, and, in one form or another, part of the history of most of the known world. Some of its tenets are now part of our culture of respect (embodied in such foundations of our nation as the Charter), but Christanity is no more part of our culture today than any other religion. The right to practice the religion of your choice is part of our culture, however, and, yes, to practice it without fear of offending anyone.

We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change...

As I've said, this idea of culture as static does not reflect reality. Canada is distinct and great, not because of our history, but because we are a nation that recognizes the inherent dignity in every human being, and are working towards a day when all of us (not just Canadians, but the world at large) can be free from the fear of harm and death for the thoughts we conceive and choose to express.

Finally, I found this correction re our national motto to be amusing.

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