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Canada Day

July 1, 2020

Today is the first of July. My immediate thought is that we are halfway through the year and how anxious I feel about that. But it’s also Canada Day, the birthday of this confederation I am now part of. And I reluctantly admit: it’s not easy to get a grasp on what Canada really is about.

First off, Canada is a European invention. The land we call Canada has been home to a multitude of aboriginal nations for most of human history, each of them with its own language and traditions. Europeans settled in America and brought decimation to the natives, erecting Canada on top of the the ashes of this genocide. This unceded territory carries the sins of atrocities committed against indigenous people, and apologetical words from the government would never be enough to erase them.

The idea of Canada is not only foreign, it is also a quite recent one. Canada was born as a confederation a little bit over 150 years. But it wasn’t until 1947 that Canadian citizens were officially considered, well, Canadian citizens. Until then everybody was still British. Canada itself only got full independence from the British parliament in 1982. Think about how young this country is. As a consequence, Canada as an identity feels unusually artificial when compared to other countries.

My relationship with Canada started when the country opened its doors to foreign new grads like me. Experiencing life abroad was an old wish of mine, and Canada invited me to embark on this long-term adventure. Slowly I could live the Canadian Experiment first-hand, see what happens in a place that still seeks its own identity in a land with such controversial origins, inhabited by people from all over the world.

In here, I discovered a safer, multicultural place to live. Despite many challenges and social issues, I can say I like Canada. It is a relief to be in a somewhat progressive country. Should all this be celebrated, though?

Canada Day gets a bit of a bad rep these days. In Québec it’s been tradition to just recycle the statutory holiday do to everybody’s “moving day”, as a big portion of the population doesn’t partake on the festivities. The modest parade held each year in Montreal is in big part organized by communities of immigrants, and I can see why. Choosing Canada as a better place to live makes you thankful and proud, just like how I, an imigrant, feel about it.

I am Canadian not by birth, but by choice. A part of this young wintery mess, beautifully imperfect, with so many questions to answer and problems to solve. It might be in the lack of tradition and long history that Canada has its own freedom to be whatever it decides to be. May it choose the path of learning, justice, and reconciliation.