We Are Canadian

A former American and now a proud Canadian once remarked that it is kind of pathetic to bash Americans simply to define a Canadian. Perched next to a giant, perhaps this is premised on a “look at me, look at me” complex. But like many Canadians, new and old, more than similarities, I seek differences between our neighbours to the south and us. Of course, they do not spell “neighbours” like we do. Or like we did? Colour? Hm. I think color is in, for it saves on newsprint. Pleaded rather than pled? Oh, but the BBC now says pled, and so do we.

Why do we care when the Americans see our differences so clearly? Who? Them Canadians? You mean the ones who wear parkas in July? The ones who let just anyone into their country and export the worst of them to us? Oh, the 9/11 bunch. Well, if you insist, they did not come from Canada.

Did you say they actually have buildings and roads and summer? And those Canadian geese, I tell you!

Listen, there must be a difference. It’s a question of identity. Hey, I know. People from the world over, every color, language, food, every ethnic fight imaginable. They are here and
celebrated. It’s called multiculturalism and it’s uniquely ours, ours and ours alone.

But on a visit to New York it seemed I had landed in a bigger Toronto. People from the world over, every color, language, food, every ethnic fight imaginable. In fact, a Bangladeshi cab driver announced that had my spoken Bengali not endeared me to him, he would have told me what exactly he thought of those Indian Bengalis who steal water from their rivers.

The mighty Chinatown. The Korean corner store owner. The Somali model. Grants handed out generously for classical Indian dance forms; sarod and sitar maestros from India ensconced in prestigious universities; vocal classical and tabla (Indian drums)
players performing in concert and harmony. And Sanskrit taught in universities.

So no “official” multiculturalism for sure, but I concede in reality it’s very much a part of the urban U.S. landscape. In practice, not much difference there.

Peace. Yes, we propound brotherhood, eschew wars, and our young men and women are keepers of peace among warring tribes in countries far and wide. Well, not exactly any more. The lines have been blurred.

I’ve got it. There is a difference. Rights. We have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Rights without responsibilities. The very first thing I learn when I come to the country. The right to become a citizen. Abandon the country soon after and demand rescue from the pickle I find myself in, for I am a Canadian and it’s my right. Return briefly after spending years “back home” and realize with horror and indignation that I have to wait for three months to qualify for treatment. Instant treatment is my right. I am a Canadian. Complain. “Back home I had …”. This, a country of our choice, a country we adopted of our own volition. But complain we must. And I don’t mean about the wicked witch of a weather. I am a Canadian and I have the right to complain. Period. I want my rights.

We are different after all. Them Americans and us Canadians.

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