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OUR OPINIONS: Becoming Canadian, more than once

OUR OPINIONS: Becoming Canadian, more than once

Defining Canada and what it means to be Canadian is about building a better community

Each year, communities celebrate Canada Day with events ranging from pancake breakfasts to classic car shows, from parades to summer fairs. One event that will be found in cities and towns across the country are citizenship ceremonies.
The new Canadians will take their oath of office and receive all the benefits of citizenship, including a Canadian passport and the right to vote and run for office.
Becoming Canadian is seen as a one-time thing. You are either born with Canadian citizenship, or you acquire it.
But maybe this Canada Day we should remember that becoming Canadian is an ongoing process.
We define what it means to be Canadian and what Canada means as we work to improve our society.
Canada has never been a homogeneous country. It was built on indigenous lands that were generally not given up voluntarily. It was settled and taken by fishermen, fur traders, soldiers and settlers. At the time of Confederation, this consisted of First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nations, and newcomers included a wide range of nationalities, including French, English, Irish, Scottish and black descendants of enslaved people.
The Canadian experiment was often about how all those people, and all those who came after them from all over the world, could live together. That was and still is a difficult process.
It hasn’t been a perfect project. A list of injustices should include the boarding schools, the Chinese poll tax and the Duplessis orphans.
That’s one reason why the project of defining what it is to be Canadian must be an ongoing project.
We can look back with both pride and shame and say, “We did a lot of things right, we did a lot of things wrong. How can we fix what was wrong, and improve what was right?”
The most important rights we have in Canada are the rights that allow us to participate in creating a better future. We are a diverse country, so that process will always be messy, a process with a lot of debate.
But it can be done.
We have built institutions worth preserving and celebrating. We have more to do, but every day new Canadians are born or made who can help build a better nation.

– MC