Opinion Column

Being Canadian means something different to everyone

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

Being Canadian means something different to everyone, what does it mean to you?

Being Canadian means something different to everyone, what does it mean to you?

The idea of being Canadian means something different to just about everybody. 

When I was young I had no real context on which to compare it, but by the time I hit junior high we had Joe Canada making his famous, impassioned speech while selling us beer. Sadly, it was the first real sense, outside of the Olympics, where Canadian patriotism was not only acceptable, but it was encouraged. The fanaticism bore deeply into our anti-American identity and laid out our most basic differences and why we are better than our southern neighbours.

Honestly, this was a conflicting time for me. Both my parents were born in the U.S., however, I was brought into this world in Drayton Valley and we lived all over Canada while I was growing up. Still, our American roots were never held up as something to be ashamed of, they were something I took pride in. 

This is a great country. There is much to be proud of in Canada, as evidenced by various organizations ranking this nation as one of the top couple of places to live in the world. Whether we’re No. 1 or two or three, it’s a good place to be. 

We are a nation of peacekeepers that also has a proud tradition of stepping up in conflicts to beat back tyranny or fascist dictators. In fact, it is often said we became a country doing so at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in the First World War. 

We are a nation of innovators, often pushing the envelope scientifically to manage our lives in the extremes of the environment in which we live with inventions like the snowmobile, the foghorn and walkie-talkie. That spirit has lead to many discoveries that have saved countless lives in the medical field as well, like the development of insulin and the first practical electron microscope. 

In the world of sports, we punch well above our weight class as well, producing world record holders in many individual sports and some of the best in the world at their chosen team sport. We are also responsible for the creation of hockey (yes the origins of the game are debated, but it would not be what it is today without Canada), basketball and the codification of lacrosse. And where would our athletes be today without Jack Cartledge inventing the hard-cup jockstrap in 1927? No, ahem, small innovation there. 

We are a nation that has welcomed the world with open arms, be it slaves from the U.S. in the nineteenth century, the Vietnam boat people in the late 1970s, Operation Yellow Ribbon in which 255 aircraft were scattered to 17 Canadian airports on Sept. 11, 2001, or Syrian refugees.

Those who flee to Canada generally stay and not only become productive members of our society, but enrich the our lives. We are better for them. 

Of course, we cannot ignore our own failings. The Japanese internment camps were active from 1941 until 1949 in which Canadians of Japanese heritage were removed from their homes and businesses and sent to the B.C. interior and to farms and internment camps across Canada. There is also the slow genocide that was committed against the First Nations people in Canada, including the use of residential schools in an effort to wipe out an entire culture and people. 

These are not things we can simply forget and say was in the past. We must continue to learn from these events and decisions and be better. In many cases we are still struggling to make it right, where we have treated immigrants and refugees better than the first people on this continent. 

My challenge goes out to you, our readers, take this Canada Day Long Weekend and reflect on what Canada means to you, and let us know by mail, email (jaldrich@postmedia.com) or social media (on Facebook @CamroseCanadian, and on Twitter at @CamroseCdnNews). 

For me, I’ll pull from the second line of our national anthem. It is my home. All of it. Not just Camrose, but from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The good, the warts, and the awesome. 


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