Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Be Canada

The conservative government's latest decision to remove the maple leaf from the uniform of the Armed Forces and reinstate British ranking, terminology and designations is not making big headlines across the country, but it should. Not just because this is a costly and unnecessary change that appears wasteful in a time of fiscal constraint, but also because it shows just how out of touch the conservative government is with Canadians.

We are not British. We do not need to pay tribute to our British roots beyond what we already have. Sure, we all pay passing attention to Kate and Will and their baby when we stand in the grocery store check out line. We hardly pay any attention at all when we hand over bills with the Queen on it- how many of us actually use cash anyway? But for the most part, Canadians feel Canadian, not British. And that's the right way to feel.

The conservative government has been trying to rally Canadians around this idea of our shared past with the British, like being a colony was some kind of honour. Canada didn't need a bloody revolution to separate itself from the British like our American counterparts, but that's also a part of who we are: a well-governed nation that doesn't need to be defined by glory in battle or a glorious past.

If the government was truly interested in what makes people feel Canadian, they could just ask us. And the majority of us will not say our British colonial past nor our non-Americanness. A lot of us will say that the things that define Canada are its most understated and least glorified things about it; our universal healthcare, immigration, multiculturalism, religious tolerance, peacekeeping, hockey, enduring winters, being a hardworking group of people who pay a lot of taxes so that the collective can benefit. Most of us are proud that our famous Canadians are smart, inventive, diplomatic and just good people with a wicked sense of humour.

Why is it so hard for Canada to just be Canada? Why do we define ourselves around our colonial past and our neighbours to the South? Why do we think that we're going to be better defined through corporate marketing for bad coffee and diluted beer? Is it because it's so hard to sift through the many cultures and little known contributions to the world, or because it's not glamourous to be a good person?

The maple leaf is humble, but it's proud, and it's an internationally respected symbol. It used to be that if you sewed a Canadian maple leaf patch on your backpack while you travelled, people would think, hey, there's a nice guy right there. The kind you can trust to watch your bag if you go to the washroom, the kind who will not give you the cold shoulder if you have a question.

I think the main problem is that this government is neither interested in what we want or who we are or what we want to be known as. There's nothing glorious about being a good guy; they want glory for this country by extolling its history in battles like 1812 and through association with a greater empire, namely the British. There's nothing glorious about goodness. Goodness, to me, is what defines Canada, the fact that we want our society to be inclusive and our people to be taken care of and recognized. Goodness is what we are. And I see no reason to be ashamed of that.

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