On the eve of Canada Day, I am thinking about what being Canadian means to me. It’s a toughie.
The first thing that pops to mind is that being Canadian means that I’m not American. Seems a bit weak to define oneself by the absence of something else, but there it is. Conversely, I do have a pretty clear picture of what it means to be American, and I’m guessing that Americans are pretty sure of their identity as well. Is this simply because America has a better brand strategy than us? A higher level of citizen engagement as a result? Better swag?
This past week, 2 things happened that come to mind when I think about my Canadianess. The first was that I was retweeted, then followed by Mamma Yamma on Twitter. If you don’t know who Mamma Yamma is, prepare to be perplexed impressed. Mamma Yamma is a puppet. A yam puppet. A yam who cooks and has a very sassy personality. I just love how absurd those last 3 sentences sound.
The point being we have this thing called The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and it airs this children’s programming block called Kids’ CBC, which features this Kensington Market vegetable stand-owning yam lady, Mamma Yamma. The humour of her sketches has a particular sophisticated edge that, while kids might not understand it, parents certainly appreciate and I’ve always thought that kind of sense of comedy is particularly Canadian. It has something to do with the weather, I believe, and how we simply have to make jokes and get laughing, lest we die of hypothermia and bitterness.
Thing number two was that at work, we had MULTICULTURAL DAY. This CELEBRATION OF DIVERSITY was organized by THE DIVERSITY COUNCIL. Why am I yelling? I don’t know. The whole thing made me a bit pissy and I can’t rightly say why.
I enjoy diversity in the sense of I like differentness. My favourite types of meals are those where there are lots of different dishes on the table from which I can choose a small portion of every single one. I like to mix it up. I have observed at my office that we are a particularly diverse group. There have been meetings where I’ve looked around the table and out of the 10 or so people gathered there, whites are the minority. Men are often the minority too.
But most of the time, I don’t notice at all. And I prefer it that way. I think it’s better that way. After all, we are not being paid to notice the colour of each other’s skin. We’re there to collaborate and be productive. What that has to do with where we were born, I really don’t know.
I’m being facetious, of course. Obviously, I realize the importance of a diverse workplace—how ideas from all over result in a balance of perspective, not to mention that working with and amongst different people allows us to better understand and represent our equally multifarious client base. But why do we have to call it out? Why do we have to celebrate it? Can’t we just BE diverse?
Being Canadian to me means having parents that were born elsewhere, who have brought me up with knowledge of their culture, but having the freedom to just be whatever and whomever I want, whenever I want; to celebrate it or not. Whatever. There are tons of us who all look different and are from different places because very few of us actually have roots that sprouted here. But we’re all here now. No apologies.
Ah, but that brings up the last point about being Canadian. There’s a clam (a term introduced to me by a writer friend – see this article for definition) about how we are known for apologizing. “You know you’re Canadian if… You step on someone’s foot. You apologize, then apologize for making them apologize.” So we’re polite. Since when is that a fault? Well, I’m sorry, but I’m not going to apologize for being sorry.
In inconclusive summary, it’s hard for me to define what it means to be Canadian—and that’s OK. I don’t need a traditional costume or a fancy dance or a memorable catchphrase to tell people where I come from. I know who I am and I daresay, I’m proud of it. That’s what being Canadian is aboat, eh?
Originally posted July 1, 2012