On this eve of Canada Day, I thought a reflective discussion about what it means to be Canadian was appropriate. How we define our identity is an important part of how we ground ourselves in the world, life and work.

If you ask an American, Canada is a country full of peace-loving, polite lumberjacks who have an affinity for high fives instead of hand guns. Which isn’t so bad, and at least we have universal health care eh?

At 150 years old, Canada is a relatively young pup in a pack of old dogs, still licking at the heels of the monarchy and looking for approval. Even our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau acknowledged that we are still forming our core identity. This can be a bit of a problem for a nation that welcomed over 320,000 immigrants in 2016, with more than 40,000 coming to BC.

How do we form an identity with a fluid population base and how can we ask for our Canadian values to be respected by those immigrants if we aren’t even sure what they are? This is something we still struggle with as a nation even though multiculturalism was adopted as a national policy in 1971.

According to political philosopher Charles Blattberg, Canada should be conceived as a civic or political community, a community of citizens, one that contains many other kinds of communities within it, including indigenous communities as well as ethnic, regional, religious, civic and national communities.  

On the other hand, the lack of a defined identity kind of is our identity. Without it, how could the British come up with a list of 25 things about Canada that ranges from our role in major world wars to our affinity for KD?

What I want to know is, in a country so obviously defined by differences, why does there still seem to be some resistance to cultural acceptance? I think the answer can be found in my first question about Canadian values.

We don’t know exactly what our values are so we don’t want to necessarily muddy the waters by accepting wholeheartedly the values of others. We are a multicultural society with a very limited understanding about other cultures.

MY suggestion is to be accepting of individuals and not to judge or view someone based on their political, religious, racial, cultural or any other kind of difference.

To me, that is what it means to be Canadian. To be understanding and welcoming, curious and open to learning new perspectives. Canada’s 150th seem like as good of a time as any to start mindfully practicing being a true Canadian–to the core.

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