What it means to be Canadian

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Sabrina Almeida

Our decision to move to Canada was mostly a social one. Frequent visits from the US connected us with family and plenty of friends from India who were living here. We missed this close camaraderie south of the border. As my husband’s work kept moving us northward, we truly believed that Canada was meant to be our home.

However, friends, neighbours and acquaintances in America didn’t share our enthusiasm when the news of our move broke. In their opinion we were leaving the land of opportunity to settle in an igloo! But there was no stopping us. After all both countries were joined at the hip and couldn’t be that different, right? We also wanted to put down roots having moved from India (going back was not an option) and within the US several times in five years. The great white north seemed ideal…

The differences revealed themselves slowly. The Canadian dollar fetched far less in the grocery store, for instance, and the options were also fewer. The buy-one-get-two-free schemes in the US were definitely a thing of the past. But the kids were happy and that was the big bonus. They were warmly welcomed in their new schools which made the transition seamless. On second thought, coming from the US could have been the reason the red carpet was rolled out. We seem to be in awe of our southern neighbours. This was evident in the treatment we received when visiting Toronto and now 15 years later in the way our American friends are greeted here. Sadly, Canada will always be the country cousin seeking acknowledgement from Uncle Sam.

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We were warned about the extreme politeness here but thought nothing of it. Now as Canadians, we realize that it is often an open invitation to be bullied. Just look at how we are caught in the crosshairs of the US and China and paying the high price for it. All while the two are likely to kiss and make up. And from the number of apologies we so willingly hand out nationally and internationally, we should own the patent on sorry.

Even India doesn’t think that much of us as demonstrated by Modi’s lukewarm response (or lack of it) to our PM’s visit. The bottom line being we need them more than they need us.
And Saudi Arabia has blacklisted us!

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Having said that I miss the trademark politeness and courtesy. A motorist raising his/her hand in gratitude as you make way for them has become a rarity. Being cut off in the streets and gas stations, on the other hand, is becoming the norm. As is jumping the queue in grocery stores or anywhere. In my opinion Canadian culture is an endangered species that needs serious protection and nurturing.

Multiculturalism which was meant to aid in assimilation has in fact overrun Canadian values and traditions. Being an immigrant myself, I don’t hesitate to say that we shouldn’t be allowed (or encouraged) to do this. We must metamorph into Canadians and I vote for the ‘melting pot’ approach of our Southern neighbours, where everyone is American first and then Indian or whatever else second.

In my five years there I never came across anyone touting their ethnicity like we do here. Everyone is too busy trying to blend in. We in the North, however, tend to ignore the fact that we are Canadian. Every ethnic and religious group demands special concessions which our vote-hungry politicians are happy to provide. We’re Indian, South Asian, European, etc. Our Canadian status is an afterthought. Like a middle name that is rarely used except in official communication. Unfortunately, this is leading to ghettoization and divisiveness. And thanks to all the racial and religious indulgences, we have become oversensitive as well as entitled.

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You can tell I’m not for the radical new post-national model our prime minister is propagating and prefer to have a Canadian identity instead. Nor am I taken in by statements from luminaries like “world needs more Canada” touting our open arms immigration policy. I strongly believe that Canada’s commitment to inclusion has been overzealous and naive.

If I wanted to be 100% Indian, I would have gone back there. So, I’m not for making Canada Indian in language, culture or values. Anyone who wants that must stop and ask themselves why they came here.

So, this Canada Day I would like to make a pledge to respect and appreciate the freedom and privileges we enjoy here, not bend them to our advantage. To value and uphold the traditions and values of the land, not replace it with a multicultural mishmash. To strengthen our national identity and unity by standing up for Canada rather than pandering to our communal and religious affiliations. That’s what it means to be truly Canadian. -CINEWS

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