Let me wrap up this week with a topic that confuses me more and more. Like many, I am an immigrant to this fine country. I did not go to school here to learn Canadian history, and it means little to me, and most recent immigrants. I came here in 1986 when I was 26 to do my MBA. I saw it as a wonderful way to broaden my horizon. I met a wonderful young woman in 1987 in Edmonton, and, as they say, the rest is history. I had a wonderfully successful career and the kids are now well off into their professional (medical) careers – a testament to Canada’s economic environment to turn a poor immigrant into a success and to its superior education system.
I love Canada. It has many positive attributes. Many though have to do with geography, such as oceans, beaches, river, Rocky Mountains, Whistler, Banff, Prairies .. to me mainly the word “space” comes to mind as a key differentiator between Canada and other (often far more crowded) countries. Canada has more space, more forest, more oil, more water, more coastline, more wheat and more land per capita than any nation on earth. It easily can hold 100M people, or more. People, meh, they are very similar wherever you go: idiots, loners, weird ones, brilliant ones, outgoing ones, curious ones, loving ones, rich ones, poor ones, caring ones, self absorbed ones, liberals, conservatives, greens, ugly or good looking ones, lazy or ambitious ones .. similar to wherever you go .. never have I seen a true “Canadian” persona or trait that I might not have encountered in the other many countries I spent time in.
It used to be that I thought Canada was not as capitalistic or raw as the US and not as socialist as Europe, a good blend basically. But it is becoming alarmingly more like Europe in my opinion. Canada’s laws and social systems are already very similar to the EU nations and will likely approach its very high taxes, artificially high energy prices, high debt levels and thus, reduced economic opportunities soon, too.
However, with more and more immigrants, roughly 300,000/year, and many ethnic groups concentrating on certain regions or parts of regions I wonder more and more what is means to be “a Canadian” besides that you carry a passport, obey the specific laws and pay certain taxes here.
Trudeau was asked about this this week in the US and described Canada as the first post-national country. Story here. He is quoted as saying: ‘‘There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada,’’
What are Canadian values ? Is our Prime Minster right that it is “openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice.” Or is this just the usual politically correct mushy stuff one says, as this certainly applies to many Europeans, Asians or even Americans (both north, central and south) ?
Looking at this blog here, many people take offense to certain things I or some other folks say. Is this the opposite of “openness” ? Is this un-Canadian ?
Many folks come here for the passport as they escape a corrupt regime. Many have 2 or more passports. Is it true that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, or is it more true that some Canadians get special rights (indigenous people) while others with dual-nationalities should be stripped (but are now not) of a citizenship if they commit hideous crimes ?
Many more, most perhaps, come to better their economic well being. Some come because their religious beliefs are oppressed were they came from. Now they’re here, what makes them Canadian ? Do they have to change their dress, culture or language ? Anything goes ?
Is English or French speaking a requirement to be Canadian as many immigrants speak little, if any, of it and live in their ethnic enclave, often for decades. In Richmond now, some shops sprout a sign “we speak English”. Are they actually Canadian, or just their offspring that typically goes to school here, learns English (or French), some Canadian history (that is irrelevant to many in their cultural context) and becomes bi-lingual or even alienated from their parents’ home (like my children who speak a passable German but go there only as tourists) ?
Is Vancouver more Canadian as it has more Asians or Toronto, as it is ethnically far more diverse (for example it has more black people and more Muslims) ? Or is it Nanaimo, Halifax or Saskatoon as they are more “white” which was the historic make-up of immigrants until the 1970’s by and large ? Or should we not even talk about this as “race” allegedly matters not ? Race matters, as you see it in your face, but no on talks about it. Why is that ? Are we afraid to be called the apartheid nation again as we treat our indigenous people different than the rest ? Are they the truest Canadians ? Or do we just hush it, as we are polite, you know, Canadian i.e. not American, Scottish, Dutch or Germans who are brash, direct and loud ?
Or is the true multitude of races, living relatively peaceful amongst each other, the greatest of all Canadian attributes ? I.e. the diversification ? Our humbleness ? Our acceptance or tolerance of other people’s styles, smells, behaviors and dresses ?
How does our housing and taxation policies play into this ? Do we tax foreign homeowners or affluent immigrants enough in housing related taxes, on acquisition, while holding or on exit ? Or do we simply ignore locals’ inability to buy houses in Vancouver because we let in too much foreign money or too many immigrants with money to drive tax revenue and housing related job growth ? Is this Canadian ? We care more for folks coming than folks here already ?
Does a nation actually matter anymore as many, especially affluent and intellectually superior people with transferable skills, like doctors, nurses, teachers, architects, real estate investors, lawyers, jewelers or plumbers can move from place to place to sell their skills to the highest bidder or in their location preference ?
What is a typical Canadian meal ? What is typical Canadian architecture ? Or a Canadian accent ? A Canadian dress code ?
What is typical Canadian street and urban design ? Are we a mere clone of our British heritage, as we see in the absence of pedestrian malls in Vancouver, or are we a mish-mash of whatever goes ?
Has the “nation” of Canada become less and less relevant, and individual and/or regions/cities become more important ?
What does it mean to you, to be Canadian ?