Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Canadian Quilting

Most Canadians will say that our nation is a cultural mosaic in which many different backgrounds co-exist in peace for the most part. I would say that this is a fair assessment. The issue I have with this is two-fold: (1) we have never truly solidified ourselves as a proper nation and (2) our present day laws are clouded by political correctness and a sense of righting former wrongs by making some cultures more equal than others.

Who are Canadians? I am as equally responsible in clarifying this statement, digging back into my family tree for a sense of belonging. Though I tend to lean more toward the Celt in me, I’m pretty much an even split of Scottish/Northern Ireland Protestant and German-Dutch. I grew up in Halifax where all these cultural influences were present. I developed a passion of Celtic music, even though my family hails from a very German part of Nova Scotia. Certainly, in short stints living in Ireland and England, I felt more at home than I did and still do living now in Edmonton. I love single malt Scotch and Guinness is my favourite beer, yet my favourite foods are spicy and as far from the European palate as one can get.

This description of myself falling all over the cultural spectrum is similar in most second or greater generation Canadians. This leads to my first point: cultural identity is not political in nature nor is it inherent in race. Your culture is the manner in which you live, full stop. In the United States, most people rally around the Stars and Stripes, Fourth of July parades and memories of both a Civil War and War of Independence. In essence, their was a nation forged in blood and fire. Canadians… well, just more or less seemed to become what we are, attaching labels like “Italian-Canadian” or “Chinese-Canadian” for some kind of cultural connection (this is perhaps personified in Bayern Munich's Owen Hargreaves who was born and brought up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but, when offered to play for the Canadian National Soccer team, decided for marketability that he'd draw on the nationality of his Mother and play for England instead. I can understand why most English fans booed him at this summer's World Cup, given that Hargreaves has never even lived or played in England. Then there was Lennox Lewis - a bit more legit perhaps, but still!). Certainly there was some cohesion amongst the first Europeans and French united against British while having no regard for the Native Peoples living here before them. But, in modern Canada, where Queen Elizabeth II is the official (yet symbolic) head of state, there’s a minimal affiliation with that whole “Commonwealth” outlook. It would appear that the Quebecois are the only truly solidified group in the country and they create laws (such as Bill 101 which permits French only signs) and as certain sense of isolation that make up the fabric of le pure laine. The white Anglo-Saxons have stories of courage of valour through two World Wars and of course Paul Henderson’s goal in 1972 when Canada defeated the USSR in Hockey. In the end, I don’t believe that there is a strong bond that makes everyone in this country rally in support of.

I believe that a large cause of our national identity crisis is a government that has bent over backwards to ensure that people could come here with their culture and live as they like, without fear or persecution. I’m all for this. The problem, however, is that we have sacrificed many important things in an effort to make all of this happen. We have children placed in mainstream classrooms who can not speak English or French, which is not fair to the student nor the teacher. Ethnic groups all come to big cities and live in certain areas which leads to those inhabitants never learning the language or culture of their new country. I am all for immigration – my wife is an immigrant. But what we are creating are essentially becoming urban ghettos and, as I am observing in our local Sudanese community, facilitating the growth of ethnic gangs.

How we treat First Nations people in Canadian society must really be looked at. I believe that there is a part of that particular group who have politically charged the perception of Native culture and the government is feeding them with tax payers tax dollars to spread their message. In a typical school where The Lord’s Prayer and National Anthem are not allowed because of religious sectarianism, we regularly have Native spiritual ceremonies such as smudging and the eagle feather. I came out from working in the prison system which is rife with Aboriginal gangs and they believe that they are carrying out the elder’s teaching by selling drugs and whatnot. They feel that these are strikes against white oppression and the theft of their culture, meanwhile they misappropriate hip-hop culture for themselves. Honestly, what do we think will create a greater cultural alienation for Native People’s – stick them on reserves and tell them that they are completely different from everyone else, or try to assimilate them successfully? 8-10 Billion dollars each year goes to Native Bands from the Canadian Government. I have absolutely nothing against Native people, but they need to live in the here and now. That doesn’t mean we forget the horrors inflicted on their people such as residential schooling. The point is, just like the Irish got over the Famine, coffin ships and years of war with the English, Native people need to stand up, be proud and move forward with the rest of the world.

Reading over much of what I have written here, I am certain that there are those who will misrepresent my views as being xenophobic and right wing, when, in fact, I am calling for the exact opposite – unanimous harmony while living and letting live. It’s the difference between several pieces of fabric and a quilt that has been woven together. The latter is what I dream of, but every quilt needs backing and so long as political correctness replaces humanitarian frankness and honesty, the Canadian quilt will continue to be riddled by drafts.


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