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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2018 4:00 pm
 


I’m writing this on the morning of Canada Day 2018, thinking about all the fascinating things I’ve read and the people I’ve met.

One thing I’ve thought a lot about lately is the fierce criticism directed at Canada, particularly last year during Canada 150, the angry reply it has gotten from many Canadians, and the motivations driving people in both cases.

Canada 150 was controversial, to say the least. Many Indigenous people criticized the idea of celebrating what they considered an ugly colonial legacy that led to nothing but misery and suffering for them. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who knows the catastrophic effects of the residential schools (many of which happened well within living memory), the damage to their way of life caused by environmental pollution, or the physical and sexual violence Indigenous people have suffered and continue to suffer. These are not things that happened in the distant past that Indigenous people should “just get over”-they are very much part of the Canadian present, and Indigenous people are still experiencing them.

More generally, there are criticisms directed at everything from Canadian racism to environmental damage to sexism, among other social issues. In all these issues, the criticism comes across as presenting Canada as a uniformly bad thing, as are many of its most prominent historical figures. If you identify with or have a positive opinion of any of them, then by extension you yourself are a bad person.

But is that really the case, though?

Why does it only seem possible, from this point of view, to be motivated to support justice for Indigenous people, to combat racism, or to care for the environment if you dislike Canada in itself, and have nothing positive to say about it?

Isn’t it possible to work for positive change based on a deep, impassioned love for Canada and a desire to make it better?

That’s part of the disconnect I see between critics who come across as loathing Canada in and of itself and the larger public, including many people of colour who proudly display Canadian flags and Indigenous people who are critical of many aspects of Canadian policy but otherwise feel a positive connection with Canada. In many cases, they are motivated by a positive love for Canada and a desire to make things better not just for themselves but for all Canadians. This was one of the finer points that the late Indigenous thinker and leader Arthur Manuel touched on in his writings such as the The Reconciliation Manifesto, wherein he noted that a positive recognition of Indigenous rights could benefit all Canadians, a point reiterated by the authors of commissions such as the 1996 Royal Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the more recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

To a lot of the broader public not generally connected with politics, blanket criticisms of Canada end up coming across as attacks on their own personal identities. The implication is that they are not allowed to take pride in any part of their heritage or identity. Their defensiveness ends up making them tune out messages they might otherwise be receptive to.

My writings are motivated by the deep love for Canada I alluded to before. Being Canadian is the very core of who I am, and all I can be. The United Kingdom, Ireland or Germany mean nothing to me-the brown people who have moved to or were born there have far more of a right to claim that history, heritage and identity than I do. If I can’t be Canadian, what can I actually have?

It’s precisely because I am Canadian that I support the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, that I support the development of green energy, that I accept the need to show the bigotry of historical figures, even ones I otherwise admire. This is the meaning of true patriot love-to take pride in the things you appreciate about your home and your identity, but also striving to change the things that are wrong with it and make it better.

And I am far from the only person motivated to do this by their love of Canada. People from every walk of life, both urban and rural, progressive and conservative, have acted on what they thought would benefit the country, based on their love for it. In getting to know them, I’ve understood their perspectives better, just as in some cases they’ve come to understand mine. I’ve also seen the love they have for their families and friends, the joy and fulfillment they’ve found, and the friendships they’ve formed. None of their communities have a monopoly on virtue or on racism, being as capable for good or ill.

Perhaps that’s the key to breaking down the division between the critics concerned about the social problems in Canada, and the broader Canadian public. Emphasizing both the things to be proud of in Canada, and the things to regret and be ashamed of, is essential to understanding the whole. By addressing the problems Canada faces, we can make it, and our love of our country, all the stronger.

Vive le Canada uni!


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2018 5:19 am
 


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