“To be complex does not mean to be fragmented. This is the paradox and the genius of our Canadian civilization.”
Do we define ourselves by our entertainment? I grew up with Mr. Dressup, The Sweater and The Littlest Hobo, but do they define what is quintessentially Canadian? There’s a poll going around to define Canada’s national food and, last I checked, maple syrup is on top with poutine being a close second. The trouble, it seems, is that Canada is so diverse and so complex that each region is a little different. Poutine is mostly a Quebec thing, whereas smoked salmon is mostly a BC thing and lobster rolls are mostly a maritime thing. So, what’s Canadian?
The quote at the top comes from former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. She reminds us that the Canadian identity is complex, but it does not need to be fragmented. Instead, we come to embrace the cultural mosaic. This is a sentiment echoed by many famous Canadians, learning how to mesh together the diverse cultural backgrounds that we have. Indeed, it’s through this “cultural mosaic” (rather than a cultural melting pot) that we get events like Gung Haggis Fat Choy every year.
Politician Bob Rae agrees:
“We have it all. We have great diversity of people, we have a wonderful land, and we have great possibilities. So all those things combined there’s no where else I’d rather be.”
And it’s not just Canadians who recognize the wonderfully diverse multiculturalism that we have in Canada. Former President of the United States Bill Clinton once said:
“In a world darkened by ethnic conflicts that tear nations apart, Canada stands as a model of how people of different cultures can live and work together in peace, prosperity, and mutual respect.”
But that still doesn’t answer the question of what it really means to be Canadian. Ask some people and they’ll say that we define ourselves simply by being “not American.” Is that really true? Pierre Trudeau comments:
“Americans should never underestimate the constant pressure on Canada which the mere presence of the United States has produced. We’re different people from you and we’re different people because of you. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is effected by every twitch and grunt. It should not therefore be expected that this kind of nation, this Canada, should project itself as a mirror image of the United States.”
At the end of the day, the national identity of Canada is too complex and too varied to be summed up in a single sentence. We have a relatively young history, a vast land, a broad population and a richly adamant multiculturalism. Whatever it means to be Canadian, I’m proud of it and you should be too.