Saturday, January 05, 2008

Who are Canadians?

A friend of mine just forwarded the following note to me. Recently, I wrote about what 'they' are saying about Canada. But I was talking about what the American Neocons, and also what an American military man were saying. This time it's Australia's turn.

An Australian's Definition of a Canadian - written by an Australian Dentist:

You probably missed it in the local news, but there was a report that someone in Pakistan had advertised in a newspaper an offer of a reward to anyone who killed a Canadian – any Canadian. An Australian dentist wrote the following editorial to help define what a Canadian is, so they would know one when they found one. A Canadian can be English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. A Canadian can be Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, Arab, Pakistani or Afghan. A Canadian may also be a Cree, Métis, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Sioux, or one of the many other tribes known as native Canadians. A Canadian's religious beliefs range from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or none. In fact, there are more Muslims in Canada than in Afghanistan.

The key difference is that in Canada they are free to worship as each of them chooses. Whether they have a religion or no religion, each Canadian ultimately answers only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

A Canadian lives in one of the most prosperous lands in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which recognize the right of each person to the pursuit of happiness. A Canadian is generous and Canadians have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return.

Canadians welcome the best of everything, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services and the best minds. But they also welcome the least - the oppressed, the outcast and the rejected. These are the people who built Canada. You can try to kill a Canadian if you must as other blood-thirsty tyrants in the world have tried but in doing so you could just be killing a relative or a neighbour. This is because Canadians are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, can be a Canadian.


Noble words, well said. I am grateful and thank this man for his very nice comments.

First, it strikes me that this is the kind of thing they used to say about Americans and the USA. It wasn't that long ago, either. But now, this is not at all how the world sees Americans. I wonder what happened.

As for the complete truth of what is said above, well, yes, I'd say that these things are true, but there is also another side to it.

This does mention that Canada is a collection of all kinds of people from all kinds of ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. That's true. But that's both good and bad. For example, here in the US, immigrants are encouraged to join the so-called 'melting pot'. This is the approach where people are supposed to surrender their original ethnic languages, culture, customs, etc. and become an American and adopt the American language, culture, etc.. They should 'blend in', in other words.

But Canada does not have the 'melting pot' approach. It has the so-called "cultural mosaic" approach where immigrants are encouraged to retain their original culture, language, etc.. It is somehow felt that the country is stronger because it is a mix of so many things. Theoretically, like the whole of biological life on the planet, its diversity is its strength.

Also, Canada historically has always had a small population despite the large geography because it's so cold there compared to other countries. Fewer people leaving other, warmer countries, wanted to go where is was so cold for 4 months of the year. But more people were needed in order to boost the economy and build the economies of scale needed to compete with other countries. So immigration was encouraged broadly, and the cultural mosaic approach was a way to encourage people to come there. The message going out to the world was "Keep your language. Keep your religion. Keep all your traditions, just change your geography. Work over here in Canada instead of there where you are. Enjoy our wealth of natural resources and modern lifestyle."

But no plan is perfect. What I've found living there most of my life, was that having so many people speaking so many different languages and maintaining so many cultures makes for cool and interesting restaurants, but it makes some other things difficult. Often, when I would sit in a restaurant, all the conversations at all the tables around me were in some other language I didn't understand. Chinese here, Italian there, Greek over there, Russian over here. It was the same thing standing in line to see a movie. It tends to make you feel isolated and detached from the humanity around you. You feel like you are are not in Canada, but that you are just in "the world" somewhere.

Without a common language and common cultural touchpoints, shared rules, shared understandings and values, it's difficult to get together with people and to know what they are thinking and to know how they will respond in a given situation.

For example, let's say you are eating your dinner in a restaurant and while your mouth is full, the waiter comes to ask how your meal is. You can't speak, but you don't want to be rude and make him wait, so you give him the "ok" symbol with your fingers. Well, depending on what nationality and culture he is from, he might interpret that as an "ok", or he might see it as you calling him an 'anal orifice'. The same finger gesture/symbol is used for different things by different groups. You have to know what neighborhood you're in, and you need to be aware of their cultural idiosyncrasies (Let's see now, I'm at Pape and Danforth and so this is a Greek area here. What does this gesture mean to Greeks again....?) It leads to many unfortunate misunderstandings.

Also, when people retain their original culture, they also retain their original prejudices and hatreds brought along with them from 'the old country'. So when the Serbs come and settle in a neighborhood, and the Croatians come and settle in another neighborhood nearby, they still dislike each other, and their kids fight each other, and the parents aren't always so well-behaved either. So you can picture this with Arabs and Jews, and with different African tribes. Long-seated cultural hatreds are part of what is preserved when you preserve the cultures.

Imagine if 200 countries were to send colonists to a brand new planet and each group from each country made their own little settlement right next to each other. Each one was a perfect replica of their home country, but it was only 1 street away from the next perfect replica of some other country. THAT is what Toronto has become(and many other places in Canada now. The Toronto effect of immigration has spread to many other cities by this time.)

But of course they DIDN'T just land on another planet. They landed in a country that already HAD a culture of it's own. It wasn't vacant. So, of course, we have to look at the issue of the Canadians who were there before the others came, and how it has affected them. The First Nations people (natives) were more or less pushed onto reserves by the English and French that settled Canada. (Mostly English.) Then, the white, English-speaking mild-mannered Canadians (like me and my ilk) that were Canada for the past 300 years, are now being overrun and pushed out by all the people coming from China, India, Pakistan, Russia, and other places, especially in the last 25 years or so as immigration has accelerated. So the Canada that was, is being lost in the cultural shift. Now, tellingly, people want to join the Mounties but they demand that they be allowed to wear a turban instead of a traditional RCMP hat. So Canadian culture suffers and loses out and becomes diluted with this form of immigration.

Frankly, one of the reasons I moved from Canada to the U.S. was because I wanted to be around people who spoke English again. It's not a prejudice or anti-immigrant sentiment. It's just that I wanted to be able to understand and join in conversations with the people around me again. I didn't want to always feel like I was walking along a corridor in the UN building. I didn't want to feel so isolated and disenfranchised anymore. Especially in my own country. I wanted to fit in somewhere, and yet somewhere along the way, I lost my sense of "Home" where I was. So I moved. My home country is not just another place - it's now another place at another time in the past. That place, the Canada that I knew growing up, is now gone.

Of course, I am not criticizing any one group or anything. It's just that there are positives and negatives to the Canadian approach of respecting all the different source cultures, but maintaining them. I hope I was fair here.


At 1/19/2008 1:24 PM, Anonymous igor said...

At the personal, individual level - Canada is the best place in the world (imho). No corruption, reliable and trustable police, neighborhood/municipal democracy, friendly, honest, responsible and helpfull and tolerant people, etc.. - at the grass root level.

Alas, as a country/society - it is a tepid, provincial (as opposed to cosmopolitan) "old boys" monopoly. At the federal level corruption is unbelievable. It's not even a corruption per se , - the government is simply in the pocket of Mr.Rogers & others... a single example - it is a criminal offense here to watch non-canadian satellite broadcasts!! ("non-canadian", of course, means "not from Rogers or Bell"...)

Sad, but I cannot name a single university in Canada that is at the level of top us, russian or european ones...

A single big bookstore in London or NY has much better selection than all Toronto bookstores combined...

Not a single Canadian company is the world leader in... anything. (as far as I know - mostly technology...)

And those canadians, who dream of having better than tepid lives (ie so-called "ambitious" ones) do leave the country - usually to the south... could it be THE REASON WHY Canada became a tepid country recently?! When all ambitious people leave - it is the tepidness that's left...


Still, I say it again, at the personal, individual level - Canada is THE BEST !!!

In one word - it is SAFE and COMFORTABLE.


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