I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone. Edith Cavell
I am Canadian. I don’t wear my flag on my sleeve or have it tattooed on my chest just above my heart. I keep my patriotism tucked inside my back pocket between the pages of a well-worn blue leather passport stamped with the Canadian shield. My identity is forged in the hard rock of this nation carved out of the mighty forests and stones and ice that once covered this great land. I don’t roar. I don’t leap tall buildings and plant flags upon every roof. I don’t scream out ‘my country, oh my country’ from river valleys and mountain peaks.
I wear my patriotism quietly. Serenely. I wear it as my badge. Of honour. Of respect. Of duty. I don’t seek out confrontation. I don’t seek out fame. I seek to be a peacekeeper, a mediator, a consensus maker. I seek to find the common ground, the peaceful way. I seek to find that place where we can live together, in harmony, side-by-side, creating a mosaic of our faith, our cultures, our traditions.
No matter what I do, or how I do it. No matter my state of grace, of war or peacetime, I state my patriotism quietly and unequivocally. I am of Canada. True north strong and free. I am Canadian and I am proud of my country.
It is Canada Day. A day for every Canadian, where ever they be to stand tall, to stand proud, to state with conviction and pride, I am Canadian.
And no… I am not a beer.
And I’m not American either, eh!
That’s the thing about we Canadians. We take our nationhood with a grain of barley. We water it down with the sweetness of self-effacing maple sugar and gobble it up in a beaver tail. We know who we are not, but defining who we are — we shirk labels in Canada. We shy away from speaking up about the greatness that defines us and prefer to stand in the shadows of our neighbours to the south.
I am Canadian, eh! And proud of it.
Sure some of us sit on the ice in the dead of winter, swilling Canadian Club and singing, ‘I’m a lumberjack and I’m ok’ while dangling a line into a hole in the freezing water below in the hopes of hooking the big one.
And yes, some of us really do live in igloos and ride dog sleds to school or high-powered Ski-doos.
But no matter where we live, or what sport we play, or vehicle we drive, being Canadian means living peacefully under the sheltering colour of the maple leaf forever.
I am Canadian.
I have the right to vote and the freedom to express my opinion without fearing for my life.
I drive on the right side of the road. I have a car. I have a home. I have a job that I love. I have the right to oppose my government. I have the right to speak out and to run for office if I so choose.
I don’t carry a gun. I carry a passport that promises me safe passage anywhere in the world I choose to go.
Because, as a Canadian I have choice.
Being Canadian is not about not being American. Being Canadian is about claiming my right to live in a country where tolerance and justice share equal voice with compassion and the right to a fair defence.
We don’t have the death penalty in Canada. I’m proud of that.
I am Canadian and I am proud to celebrate Christmas and Easter. I am proud my neighbour is free to celebrate Hanukkah or Ramadan.
I am Canadian means I live in a land where the tapestry of nations woven together in our vast and varied lands creates a rich and vibrant world of colour. It is stitched together across a land where every voice is equal. Every individual has value.
I am Canadian and I stand proud before the Maple Leaf, shoulder to shoulder with my brothers and sisters, no matter our skin colour, no matter our religious beliefs or cultural practices as we sing loud and clear, “O Canada, my home and native land.”
And then I realize in my oh so Canadian conscience that the very words of our national anthem deny the truth of one-third of our population who do not claim Canada as their ‘native land’.
Oh dear. Best we change the words so everyone feels they belong in this amazing land called Canada.
I am Canadian. And more than proud, I am tolerant and accepting of all who call this land their home, no matter where they were born. It is the Canadian way.
And…. as promised, here’s a unique version of Oh Canada! by rapper Classified