What exactly is a Canadian?
How can you define, in general terms, a country and its people having only been a country for the past 150 years? On top of that, we are mainly a country of immigrants, multi-cultural, vast in area but low in population. So how can we possibly have any kind of defining sense of who we as Canadians are?
Many wonder what makes us Canadians any different, for example, from our neighbours to the south who are also a country of immigrants, looking and sounding relatively much the same?
A Canadian is Anyone and Everyone
For starters, Canada is a country made up of anyone and everyone. Not only is Canada populated by the indigenous people of the First Nations and the Inuit, people from all over the world immigrate here, making Canada their new home for various reasons; usually in hopes of having a better life.
Out of many reasons given, overall Canada is politically stable, the job market is relatively good, our education system is well developed, and we have a good healthcare system. As you may or may not know, unlike our southerly neighbours, Canada is governed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/const/page-15.html giving all Canadians these fundamental freedoms (along with many guaranteed rights):
Freedom of conscience and religion
Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication
Freedom of peaceful assembly
Freedom of association
Different from our “melting pot” neighbours who are asked to drop their former culture at the border and integrate into one common culture, Canadians are encouraged to retain their former culture and celebrate their origins, to become part of a diverse cultural mosaic.
A Canadian is Polite…sort of
Many people say that one thing about Canadians is that they are, in general, polite. However, I have heard some people question the genuineness of this politeness, placing it more akin to a Victorian form of fake politeness. Perhaps being a country of so-called “newcomers”, we all have this feeling of being the new kid in the class, so hoping to avoid ruffling any feathers we err on the side of politeness, whether or not we truly believe in what we are saying or agreeing to. But what of third or fourth generation Canadians? Surely, they don’t feel new to a country they were born in. Perhaps it’s some sort of instinctual survival technique, after all, Canada is an extremely large country with an extremely small population in comparison. Imagine if you’re driving the 12-hour drive from Vancouver to Edmonton through the vast forests of the Canadian wilderness and your car gets a flat at -30C in the winter. If we were a country of impolite people, how many passers by would be so inclined to stop and help us out knowing their kind gesture might get responded to with a “mind your own business”. Maybe over the years, with our low population and multiculturalism, we have learned that it is perhaps in our own interests to not be so much as polite but more along the lines of a grin and bear it society, attempting to avoid confrontation at all costs. And yes, our politeness can come across as fake, and perhaps it is at times, but after all, Canadians are peacekeepers.
A Canadian tends to be Reserved
Canadians, in general, tend to be reserved. Unlike our outgoing, extroverted southern neighbours, we as a people tend to be a little more on the quiet side. In warmer climate countries, people spend much of their time out and about, mingling in the markets and squares for most of the year whereas us northerners are driven inside to our separate residences due to our cooler winter temperatures. Now of course this doesn’t apply to all Canadians, and even for those of us who are more on the reserved side, we are for the most part a warm and welcoming people.
A Canadian is Accepting
Canadians are generally an accepting people. Whether it’s that we are truly accepting or feel more of a sense of indifference, we tend to keep our noses in our own business and expect others to do the same. Again, this is probably due to us being a multi-cultural country, and we are not just multi-cultural. We are also multi-lingual (officially bi-lingual), multi-religious and multi-gendered. All this multi-everything combined with our tendency to be polite and reserved gives most of us an attitude of “live and let live”, in other words, you do your thing, and we’ll do ours.
A Canadian is Proud
Canadians in general are a proud people, proud of their choice to be Canadian, for unless we are of First Nations heritage, at some point either us or our ancestors chose to come to this country and become Canadian. Being reserved, we do not express our pride unabashedly loud but with more of a loud whisper. We acknowledge that we are not the biggest, the best, or the greatest and we definitely have dark spots in our past, but we are none-the-less proud of what we have become over the past 150 years and acknowledge that we have plenty of room yet for improvement.
So, What Exactly is a Canadian?
So, with all of this in mind, perhaps the best answer is “Hopeful”. A Canadian is hopeful. Hopeful for a new life, hopeful for acceptance no matter their differences, and hopeful for a better and peaceful future.