An immigrant reflects on what it means to celebrate Canada Day.
Canada 150th Birthday Celebration – Is it just another day?
Since moving downtown, city events are hard not to notice. Sidewalks are congested; motorists impatient with turtle-speed along major thoroughfares; traffic police and ambulance sirens wail every half an hour or so. Several road closures and crowd-control fences are installed in an instant and traffic flow is redirected, just like when a major movie production is granted the use an entire city block.
July 1st marked Canada’s 150th birthday and the highlight of year-long celebration of what I’ve learned to be a $500M budget. In my work-building downtown, there are Canada 150th decals and some other stickers, which appeared a week prior. There’s a huge Canada 150 logo at Canada Place, attracting several tourists aboard cruise ships, contributing to the estimated 1.5M visitors that day.
Did it feel like the 2010 Winter Olympics? Certainly not, but seeing several Canadian flags and red shirts brings life and promoted “togetherness” amongst everyone. Although, it was difficult to distinguish the celebrators from the spectators. The former being tourists and international students.
Was it like just any other summer event? For me, it wasn’t.
I live in Canada, but do I think like a Canadian?
A decade of Vancouver city life may not speak of a truly Canadian experience, much more that I’ve found my vacation/escape outside of the country. But neither does a bottle of Molson beer and a bowl of poutine or the hockey tournament creates it. Paying taxes and regular contribution to the provincial healthcare levy gets me closer to truly “feel” I am in Canada. No, it is not the bickering that comes with it, but perhaps it’s about being part of the labour force that fuels this economy. It’s the unseen binding element amongst naturalized Canadians–like me–who share a somewhat similar life story (i.e. moving to Canada largely for economic reasons): a fellow boat-rower in sometimes-rough seas.
But how does a natural-born Canadian think? How is it different from mine? Emigrating from your motherland, one has to keep an open mind and broad understanding of your new “home” country. Awareness of one’s differences in lifestyle, political views, economic policy opinions and life in general puts every immigrant in equal footing with “everyone-who-has-been-in-Canada-ahead-of-us”. It is a two-way process for the new settler and the established resident of Canada. Here, there is a derision between what’s considered an “orginal” Canadian and those who just landed. Would immigrating to Canada earlier than most make me more Canadian–and perhaps a few decades more will make me the new “original” Canadian?
So, I witnessed a Canadian oath taking a few days ago and the overwhelming nostalgia gripped me. Their gleaming faces clearly show that they just accomplished something big, a badge of acceptance from Canada. I look at them with pride and warmth. Welcoming them as fellow boat-rowers. Did I just do a Canadian thing?
Soon, when these new Canadians become my healthcare benefit competitors, would I regret having welcomed them? I must confess: did I just do a Canadian thing?
In Canada, living affordability is every government era’s thrust and I believe that several programs have been in place to make it so. Notwithstanding several organizations volunteering their time for just and humane cause. If I were to volunteer mine, I would pick those that provides tax-credit certifications. Did I just do a Canadian thing?
Yes. If I do what they do, then I must think like them too–regardless of intentions.
Canada is not what you make of it, but what it makes of you.
Moving to Canada, I didn’t suddenly feel being Christopher Columbus. At least, it wasn’t like I had intentions to monumentally change or influence it. But as someone who had a good career back home, I had the unbridled confidence that I’d conquer Canada too. There were quite a few that I had to get used to: smaller city blocks, follow-your-lane driving, cleaning up after use of a fastfood table, to name a few. But it was the humbling experience of starting at a less-than-desired position when I first joined the workforce.
Years go by and reality has finally sunk in. It was finally clear what lies ahead of me and I can only choose to accept or reject (and go home). I decided to stay and not an ounce of regret.
Canada is a beautiful country and with people who continually support each other while also pushing their family or personal well-being and welfare. It is only fair to strive for his/her own, but recognizing that it is a multi-cultural country is one of its greatest appeal to me. It has made me more accepting of cultural differences and has me put on a new sense of pride to put a maple leaf flag in my backpack when I travel abroad. Did I just do a Canadian thing?