Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Canada / Canadian

What does Canada/ Canadian mean to YOU? Please try to define the concept in a way that feels true to you.

Feel free to explore in this context negative and positive ideas to bring out some criticism as well as the main attraction of this unique cultural construct. You are welcome to choose a symbol/ icon/ image (or symbols/ icons/ images) that, in your opinion, represent(s) the idea of Canada / Canadian today.


  1. When I am asked about Canada, the first characteristics that come to mind include: multiculturalism, beautiful scenery of the outdoors, and the cold climates. I think about the diversity of the culture of Canada because of the multiculturalism of the people who live here, and despite the beautiful natural environments of Canada, they also remind me of the cold temperatures.

    However, I would have to agree that sometimes, I think Canada cannot really be described as having a single identity. I think that because of all the diversity of cultures, environments, and even climates, Canada’s identity is its diversity. I feel that if I were to pick just one symbol to represent Canada, it simply cannot justify the diversity that is Canada. The identity of Canada consists primarily of its diversity in various aspects, whether it be culture, environments, or climates.

  2. In regards to what Canada means to me, the concept of multiculturalism immediately comes forth in my head. Being born and raised in Canada and seeing the diversity we have in ethnicities, religion, culture, environment, etc. it is hard not to associate multiculturalism to Canada.
    Although this notion of a diverse culture is a positive one, I do think it does come with its negatives. I believe that my perspective of Canada's multiculturalism is can be biased at times due to living here all my life. I realize that it is important to recognize that negative things such as discrimination and racism still exist and that no nation is perfect.

    If I were to associate a symbol to represent Canada's diverse culture, I think I would use a rainbow. In a rainbow, there is a diverse collection of colours within it to form the true beauty as a whole in the rainbow. I believe that in relation to this, Canada is a collection of many diverse cultures and traditions that come together as a whole to depict Canada as a collective multicultural nation, or, a culture of cultures.

  3. Canada is beyond just a nation of people from all over the world. Canada is instead, a land of opportunity, a home of welcoming residents, and a peaceful country that strives to govern its people in the most fair and just ways possible. Canada symbolizes a 14-year-old adolescent teen, young in spirit but disciplined in action. People here are happy, proud and dignified. It has cities consisting of skyscrapers, as well as towns that run along the edges of nature. Ethnic communities hold a strong presence, and yet do not overwhelm or interfere with the rest.

    I would never be anywhere else but here, because it is only in Canada do I find my roots and limitless potential.

  4. As a person who has spent roughly equal time living in both Canada and the United States, and who has citizenship from both countries and considers themself to have roughly equal (however minimal..) knowledge of both places, I feel as though my opinion on what it means to be Canadian features both internal and external components. That is to say, in describing what I believe it means to be ‘Canadian’, my reply is influenced by both a Canadian (internal) and American (external) perspective.

    When I consider what Canada/Canadian means, my mind often ends up comparing and contrasting Canada and the United States and attempting to identify any specific social or other features that seem to be distinctly ‘Canadian’, or distinctly not commonly found in Canada. Something that often comes to mind is the ways in which Canada as a country and Canadians as individuals often emphasize values surrounding the environment, and the natural resources that the country contains. It seems common in Canada to hear of and see political and social debate and discussion surrounding environmental issues frequently, and less so when considering the United States. Often I find the discussions and debates taking place in the States tend to surround social issues more frequently than environmental issues. Perhaps this is just due to what media publicizes, but perhaps Canadians do have a particularly strong valuation for the environment.

  5. Having come from an immigrant family, being Canadian means putting lesser importance on our former allegiances and adopting Canadian culture as our own. While it is another discussion entirely on what Canadian culture truly is, I believe that it has its ties to Canada’s establishment as a political state. More specifically, this means that we must familiarize ourselves with the early European settlers and First Nations. These people celebrated Canada for its vast natural resources, social and economic freedoms, which we still celebrate today. And even more recently, Canada has developed strong ties to democracy, central Christian beliefs and the natural environment.

    I believe that the examples above demonstrate that Canada already has a concrete identity. Therefore, I believe that we should not need to associate with Canada as distinctly multicultural anymore. For a person to label themselves as belonging to multiple cultures with countless principles would be exhaustive and frankly, unmanageable. In this globalizing world of ours, immigration has become a common occurrence and to claim that Canada is something different as a result of it is not really saying much. Instead, I claim that Canada is more like a life jacket. A person can go through the motions and experience what Canada is on the surface. However, to truly experience what Canada is like, one has to take a decision in removing their previous self and plunge into the deep waters.

  6. I find it very challenging to come up with a single definition of what it means to be Canadian. Canada is a vast country that encompasses so many different cultures and people. Culture in provinces such as Nunavut will contrast heavily with cultures in Newfoundland. In addition to this, the immigration population continues to grow which adds to the complexity of the country's identity. In my opinion, we as Canadians are more different than we are similar. I don't think it's possible to define Canadian identity in a way that encompasses all the diversity the nation has to offer. Although we do share many similarities in our cultural values, I don't believe that any single symbol, icon, or image can be used to conceptualize something as complex as Canadian identity.

  7. I'm not Canadian, however from a third person perspective, I do feel as if the Canadian identity, is a confused identity. True, Canada is quite multicultural, as it advertises itself to be, meaning they do embody many citizens from various countries, however, that doesn't necessarily make Canada "multicultural" and inclusive. I definitely agree with the notion that Canada cannot be made up of a single identity.

  8. I know a beer commercial may not be the most appropriate YouTube video for this blog, but I really relate to “Joe’s” words. The imagery within this commercial is strong, as he stands on a stage in front of a large screen, which shows images containing Canadian flair. He defines what Canada is not, as well as identifies what Canada means to him. “Joe” touches upon Canadian identity, such as the toque, the chesterfield, and the "zed." Every time I watch this commercial, I too feel proud that “I Am Canadian.”

    If you want to watch it on YouTube here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pASE_TgeVg8

    And here is the script:

    I’m not a lumber jack
    or a fur trader
    and I don’t live in an igloo,
    or eat blubber,
    or own a dog sled,
    and I don't know
    Jimmy, Sally or Suzie from Canada,
    although I’m sure they're really, really nice.
    I have a prime minister not a president,
    I speak English and French, not American,
    and I pronounce it about not "a-boot."
    I can proudly sew my country's flag on my backpack,
    I believe in peacekeeping not policing,
    diversity not assimilation,
    and that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal.
    A toque is a hat, a chesterfield is a couch,
    and it is pronounced "zed" not "zee." "Zed"!
    Canada is the 2nd largest landmass!
    The first nation in hockey!
    And the best part of North America!
    My name is Joe and I am Canadian!

    1. Isn't it interesting how these comments more or less attack/diss America? This is almost entirely targeted at Canadians who see their identity as being NOT American or being better than America? It is funny how elitist we are when it comes to comparing ourselves with Americans. I wonder if it's because of our British roots.

    2. Although I agree with you to an extent, Christine, I feel like this attacks Americans in a different way. I feel as if this commercial was made not only to show our pride as Canadians, but also to clear some ridiculous stereotypes that were floating around about us. This commercial is making others realize that there is more to us than the common misconceptions about Canada. I believe that this commercial is not necessarily saying that we are "better" than Americans but saying that we are "proud" to be who we are and are attacking Americans only to make them realize we should not be recognized only by these stereotypes that may not even be true (to everyone, at least).

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  10. I love talking about Canadian identity. As I previously stated somewhere else on the blog, I’m a Canadian Studies major; Canadian identity is my de facto academic focus. Canadian identity to me is an identity of multiple identities, multiple non-identities, and importantly, regionalism. First of all, I don’t think a truly uniform national identity exists or can exist. I think that it’s extremely interesting how we rely on stereotypes to confirm that we have things in common that we believe about ourselves. I believe that Canada’s geography denies national Canadian identity. Regionalism is what separates the political and economic goals between Alberta and British Columbia. Regionalism is what separates the sense of place and society of Newfoundland from Ontario. Regionalism is what separates Quebec from virtually the entire country outside of the province – not to mention that while the rest of the country seeks unity, this province seeks autonomy.
    As for multiple identities, although I am proudly Canadian, I also identify as German even though I’m a second generation Canadian. My friend whose father was born in Norway and mother was born in Uganda but was born and raised in Canada considers all three countries to be her heritage. My Quebecois friend Rich considers himself Quebecois and reluctantly calls himself Canadian when he travels. His legal identity is different than his personal identity. My roommate’s boyfriend is from the Squamish nation. He is proudly Canadian as well as Squamish. His legal identity is different from his other nationality (in italics) to which he belongs. He says that certain groups, like the Iroquois in Eastern Canada, reject Canadian sovereignty and are not Canadian. They have issued their own passports. They (rightfully, in my opinion) refuse the label that the government has put on their territory. They didn’t sign a treaty with the Crown. Their land was suddenly dispossessed.
    So to me, these identities are all a part of Canadian identity. That’s what Canadian identity is. We are a multiple identity national identity.

  11. Like many others have stated, I also believe that there is not a single symbol that can represent Canada. Canada contains such a diverse number of cultures and identities that it seems natural to just associate each and every one of those with our country. As an example of this, I remember in both elementary school and high school, my group of friends always consisted of individuals with different cultural backgrounds. Even now in UBC I can see different cultural backgrounds in study groups that I am part of. Canada consists of so many different groups that we often learn about all of these groups and become more accepting to each and every one whether it be learning by friends or from school, etc.

    Another defining feature of Canada, however, would also be democracy. Each and every citizen is welcome to give their say in issues by voting where other countries may be fighting for this. Although these are views of Canada that can be observed by anyone, I believe that they are the most important things and what makes our Country so worth being proud of. It is difficult to gather everything about Canada and say "This is what Canada is.." and I think that is also part of Canada's beauty. We have so much to be proud of and so many diverse qualities that it is hard to keep a count but this is just what I think!

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  14. I’m originally from Mississauga, Ontario, but I moved to Palo Alto, California at the age of 14. People make a lot of fun jokes about Canada and America’s little brother-big brother relationship. For my first few years in Californian public school people would pester me with all sorts of inanity. “Did you live in igloos?” “Did you hunt, ride, or worship beavers?” “Do you bleed blood or maple syrup?” It was all in good jest. I constructed for them a version of Canada that was all stereotype. I led them to believe that Canada was nothing but white men and first nations, snow and sleet and mountains, polar bears and caribou. In reality the differences between Mississauga and Palo Alto were slight. I said “washroom” they said “bathroom.” I pronounced the “a” in words like “bag” and “wagon” with an “a-e” lilt, mispronouncing “dragon” as “drey-gen.” In America, being Canadian meant buying milk in bags and coming off really polite to my peers. In Canada, being Canadian is just a default state of being. I think hockey, socialism, and TD Canada trust

  15. My family immigrated to Toronto, Canada on June 4th, 1998. Though I've practically lived here all my life, it wasn't without the difficulties of being a foreigner. My parents would constantly remind us when we were young, that we must stick together and we must support each other because we were alone. We had no family, no friends and essentially, no money. They would always point out that we were Koreans in an alien land Canada, and that people would always resort to their native roots. In other words, in any negative scenario, people would take sides with the "white Canadians", not us Koreans. This seemed true for my earlier parts of my life in Canada. English was difficult to learn; therefore making friends were equally as hard. The "white kids" would always choose each other first on their soccer teams during lunch, and it would be me and a few other kids (colours) that were chosen last. I believe that the language barrier was the biggest obstacle at the time because thinking back; I realized that kids with good English would be chosen second after the whites, regardless of their race.

    My perception of Canada changed or perhaps matured with my age. Maybe our society and level of acceptance grew throughout the years, or maybe it was just my improvement in English that changed my relations with my peers at school. Regardless the reason, I began to see just how multicultural Canada was. In what other country would we plainly see a black man dating an Asian woman? The soccer field looked no different than the World Cup with so many different colors enjoying the sport together. Our communities consist on a variety of religions, in which we are free to worship without the risks that would follow some other countries. Most importantly, where else in the world can so many different races and ethnicities call the same place home? That’s why the word that pops up when thinking about Canada, is “Home”.

  16. I am a second generation Canadian on my father’s side and a third generation Canadian on my mother’s side. On my father side, both my grandparents immigrated to Canada from England. On my mother’s side, my great-grandparents immigrated from England and Ireland (with Spanish roots). As you can see I am about three quarters English. Growing up in Canada I’ve noticed when someone asks where your family is from, you tend to answer with where they came from before Canada. Why don’t we ever say Canada? I was born here, so was my mother and father. It wasn’t until I backpacked around Europe that I truly embraced being Canadian. Unless you count travelling to the USA in which Canadians are always proud to point out the difference. I think because Canada is a relatively young country, we are just now showing our pride. It isn’t because we were ashamed, I suppose we just didn’t think anything of it. It was the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver where I really noticed a spark in national pride. I think that spark has led to a fire that is growing into a strong and proud nation. Some may view that as negative and arrogant. But I think it’s about time and that Canadians deserve to brag a little. Yes, Canada has it downfalls, so does every other country. But I truly believe that Canada is a country where other cultures can come together and celebrate being different and find common ground in the love for our country.

    Chantel Wright

  17. Perhaps it sounds silly and naive of me, but my idea of a national Canadian identity kind of shattered upon moving here. Obviously I should have expected differences between central and western Canada, but it was shocking to me that some of the things I identified as "very Canadian" didn't even exist here or are relatively rare (like bagged milk, beavertails, and snow - seriously, the first time I went grocery shopping with some Vancouver friends, there was a lot of disbelief and shouting shared by everyone about bagged milk!). I grew up in Ottawa and went to school downtown so I would frequently see our Parliament buildings and they were a source of pride for me, so the first time someone referred to "Ottawa" to express disdain for the federal government I felt almost mildly personally offended, ha.
    It was also interesting to me how different the Chinese-Canadian community was here. There is a much deeper and well-known history here. If I were asked where I was from, I'd be much more like to reply "Chinese" than "Chinese-Canadian" or "Canadian" (unless I'm traveling internationally, then being Canadian helps), but it seems like such a response would be incredibly rare amongst the friends I've made here with similar backgrounds. It was just a very interesting experience to move halfway across the country, and it definitely makes the idea of a national Canadian identity seem much more difficult to achieve.

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  19. I have always thought of Canada as a giant melting pot of so many different cultures and kinds of people. One of my favourite things about UBC is how diverse the student body is. I love getting to know people and learning about their different backgrounds and traditions. I find it hard to chose a specific symbol or characteristic that represents Canada as a whole. I think Canada’s diversity is what represents it the most. To me, Canada is a warm and welcoming place where anyone can call home.

    For entertainment purposes, here is a fun article that Maclean's published. Some of their reasons of why its better to be Canadian are pretty awesome!


  20. At first Canada just meant a new country to live in for my college life. It would just be a new home for my next four years. When I first arrived, I had the perception that it would be the same as the US. However, it was much more than that. Not only was UBC so full of different cultures, but so was this city of Vancouver. Unfortunately, I have not visited other parts of Canada, but I am sure the diversity is the same. So many cultures, ideas, races, come together in this country it is impressive how all of them coexist and learn to respect one another. It is hard to feel out of place here in Canada since you will definitely be able to find someone like you, either physically or personality wise.

  21. When I first moved to Canada at age thirteen (going fourteen), this country was “my enemy”. It was the reason I was separated from friends I had since I could barely talk and the extended families that I have grown to love despite all their crazy antics. Canada was “what got in the way” of my guaranteed scholarship to a university I’ve always wanted to go to in the Philippines. Canada was the reason I was away from “home”.
    Flash forward six years, and my concept of Canada has completely changed. Canada has become my compass. Here, I learned to identify where the North is just by looking at where the mountains are. Here, I learned to navigate my body along streets, cities, and suburbs the way my super conservative lifestyle in the Philippines never permitted me to. Here, I’ve learned not to falter in my decision and my choices as I grew up, slowly earning a distinct moral compass that always points back to my family and my established morals. Canada was the place I constantly found myself lost in—with its bilingual education and numbered streets—but in the process of constantly losing myself in my environment, I found that Canada has also taught me more about myself. This is the place where a lot of my growing happened, emotionally and mentally.
    When I go back to the Philippines this May, people will ask me what was Canada like. They would expect stories about the cold weather and the other races that harmoniously manage to coexist here—about my very multicultural friend groups and what it’s like having friends who aren’t the same ethnicity as me. But I would simply tell them that where I’m from, Canada means bringing an umbrella no matter what the skies look like because there’s always a possibility of rain. Canada means respecting the earlier inhabitants of land and the indigenous culture. Canada means accepting all sexualities and races with open arms. I’ll tell them, Canada means “it’s okay that you’re different; you still belong here”.

  22. I think the nice thing about Canada is that there is no one true definition of what Canada or being Canadian is. Instead, Canada is a place where people from anywhere in the world can come and call it their new home. By embracing other cultures, it makes many different groups of people feel welcome here.

    There have been various interpretations of what being Canadian is. However, I think the fluidity of the concept of being Canadian allows us to view Canada in a flexible way. Therefore, it allows us to continually redefine who is Canadian, allowing us to continually include more groups of people without discriminating them as the other.

  23. Vancouver has nothing like the true "Canadian" sentiment on the East Coast. When I lived in Toronto, we would have to sing the national anthem at the beginning of each school day - just the thought of it here is preposterous! Before that, the same thing was done at school in New York; so I thought it would be normal. However, once I moved here, I was a bit taken aback by how little Canadian pride actually existed. Kids barely knew the lyrics of their national anthem; could not name the capitals of the provinces and territories. Western Canada has really flopped in this respect.

    However, this is likely due to B.C., and Vancouver in particular, not identifying with greater Canada in general. Citizens here tend to regard themselves as Pacific Northwest, rather than in a greater context with the rest of Canada. Seattle, in particular, feels more like a brother to us than the distant cousins in Montreal and Toronto. Seeing how Tim Hortons has a completely disastrous Vancouver market share in comparison to Starbucks, Blenz and independent coffee chains is a perfect connotation to what the Vancouver identity is.

  24. Vancouver has nothing like the true "Canadian" sentiment on the East Coast. When I lived in Toronto, we would have to sing the national anthem at the beginning of each school day - just the thought of it here is preposterous! Before that, the same thing was done at school in New York; so I thought it would be normal. However, once I moved here, I was a bit taken aback by how little Canadian pride actually existed. Kids barely knew the lyrics of their national anthem; could not name the capitals of the provinces and territories. Western Canada has really flopped in this respect.

    However, this is likely due to B.C., and Vancouver in particular, not identifying with greater Canada in general. Citizens here tend to regard themselves as Pacific Northwest, rather than in a greater context with the rest of Canada. Seattle, in particular, feels more like a brother to us than the distant cousins in Montreal and Toronto. Seeing how Tim Hortons has a completely disastrous Vancouver market share in comparison to Starbucks, Blenz and independent coffee chains is a perfect connotation to what the Vancouver identity is.

  25. In class at the start of the term, when we defined being Canadian in groups, I said that being Canadian was about being a group of people, brought here on the pretense of mass tracts of land, politely bonding over finding themselves in an environment that is far too cold 90% of the year. In reality, despite the fact that I am a Canadian citizen and that my Canadian heritage goes back for more generations than I can count, I have very little sense of patriotism. Perhaps, as Michael above me noted, this has something to do with being from the West Coast. We certainly don't have the freezing temperatures that the rest of the country shares, and in terms of geography and availability of activities we're quite different too. However I don't particularly long to be a part of a more patriotic Canada either. I think we're an excellent nation that has a lot of great qualities, but I don't know that I can give a definition to "being Canadian" that I wouldn't give to "being North American", or quite honestly to "being human" in general. I can see that our nation has its pros and its cons, but I don't feel like the people here have any major defining qualities, beyond perhaps our diversity, but it seems to me a difficult thing to bond over our differences, despite our best efforts to do so. I love living here, but if I was asked to define myself, "Canadian" wouldn't be one of the first words to come to mind, because I don't feel that it holds a lot of weight or meaning.

  26. I guess my intention was always to come full circle with this course. I remember you asking us this at the beginning of the course and now that I think about it, my views have changed a little bit. This course helped solidify my Canadian identity in realising that there is no single unified Canadian identity; Canada is built on stories of individuals who both shape by the culture and the land, and in turn are shaped themselves. Canadian identity is built on the stories that we choose to tell about our own experiences and what we believe in as Canadians, both individually and collectively. We must acknowledge, however, every piece of history that influences our stories whether we are conscious of its everyday consequences or not. History shapes a large part of our own stories and we must not forget that.