Re: A question of my Canadian identity, March 31 column.
Columnist Brian Kurokawa’s question, “What is a Canadian?, stimulated all kinds of feelings and thoughts about my own reality and experiences.
Like Brian, I was born in Canada, so that made me a Canadian! I had no choice in getting that designation and it didn’t matter where my parents came from. Crazy, eh?
I am white-skinned, speak with a Canadian accent, my family name has its roots in the French/Dutch region of Western Europe, but I have never been asked where I am from on that account. Even while teaching English in China, I was never asked where I was from, but often thought I was assumed to be an American.
When I returned to Canada with my born-in-China wife, she eventually chose to become a citizen, and I learned that Chinese living here often used acronyms as shorthand to answer “where are you from?” – at least amongst themselves: BICC, Born in Canada Chinese; or CBIC, Canadian Born in China.
It is difficult to say for how many more millennia we will be trying to identify ourselves by our roots, but I think Jeff Chiba Stearns, a Japanese-Canadian filmmaker, in his video One Big Hapa Family points us in the right direction. He takes the viewer through a number of generations of his family: the first generation thinks of themselves as half-and-half; the next one perhaps a third or a quarter, until after a few more generations the kids themselves figure out it doesn’t really matter and come to understand that they are all members of one family – the human family.
Merrill Muttart, White Rock
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“Kenya,” Andrea answered, after I’d decided to get to know her a bit better and ask if she had been born here in Canada.
I felt, after having dealt with her nine or 10 times at the counter of my local credit union, that it was time to pose the question that had been on my mind for a while now.
Her smile was as captivating as that of the wife of our nephew, whom he had met while in Uganda volunteering at an orphanage in an attempt to get over the horror serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. I went on to tell Andrea their story, and how they live here now and have a beautiful little girl and are busy adapting to life here in Canada.
After going on a bit longer with stories of enjoying both the Ugandan and Kenyan softball teams in last year’s World Softball Championships at Softball City, I left with a smile on my own face. I felt good about taking that chance and getting to know Andrea more than just as a face at a counter.
Then, I was on my way just down the street to All Star Cut barbers to get a long overdue haircut, and listen to my barber Hussain go on about how I should come in more often. Along with this, we discuss soccer, hockey, travel, life in White Rock and, perhaps, a bit of politics. Do we always agree? No. But that’s really what it’s all about when you are lucky enough to meet and get to know some of our ‘new Canadians’ – all with their differing backgrounds.
I share these few exchanges after reading Brian Kurokawa’s column on the question of Canadian identity. In response I would say it is more than worth the effort to reach out and take that little ‘uncomfortable’ step to get to know and learn from these newly arrived immigrants, rather than let fear and a bit of uncertainty rule both your life, as well as our country’s identity.
After all, we or our parents or grandparents, or their parents, have all been in the same boat at one time or another, looking for a better life in this beautiful country, and in the process making it what it is and hopefully what it will always remain: a country open to immigration, no matter the colour of one’s skin, their choice of religion or the country of their origin.
Give it a try. You just might be surprised at what you find…
Barry Cameron, White Rock