I have said it before, and today of all days, I say it again: I am unabashedly proud to be Canadian; even though that means also owning some of the messed up stuff that we do and have done. While I have little connection to much of the rest of the county outside of Quebec and Ottawa, I only need to travel outside of Canada to know just how Canadian I am.
At home, I am a mishmash of identities, shifting constantly to navigate the constructs I am bound to. At work I am one person, at play another, in a store, on the metro, on the phone, there seems to be different and constantly adapting mes . On one side of town I’m on high alert, keeping my back to the wall, in another, I walk with my head in the clouds.
Here, once I step out of my home, life becomes highly political and complex. When I step out of my county, life gets simple. In a Canadian setting, I am mostly a Montrealer, and even as such, am often affixed an asterisk. When I declare myself Canadian abroad, most of the time, I don’t even get the follow up questions. My identity is simply accepted. It’s funny how the world perceives us as so much more inclusive than we really are- then again, we perceive ourselves that way as well.
If you are wondering why I do not mention being Quebecois, it is because that is an identity not afforded to me; regardless of the fact that I was born, raised, and educated here and speak both languages fluently. Where I once used to fight to claim that identity, over time I have come to see that it is an exclusive club I do not want to belong to – Bill 9 and 21 anyone? Enough said. Why stay you might ask? We have had two votes that say I live in Canada, and here I will stay as long as Canada it is.
Yes, I am critical of my home and native land, but you can’t make anything better if you’re happy with good enough. If I am to own the bad with the good, then sound mental health requires that I be an agent for change when it comes to the bad.
That does not mean that I don’t also count my blessings. Given my lot in life and the times we live in, there are three things I am very grateful for: I was born Black, a woman and Canadian.
Though my mom missed the mark by three days with me, my sister got it right, and delivered my nephew on Canada Day three years ago today. As we celebrate the gift this child has been to our family, I can’t help but also reflect on the courage and spirit of adventure that brought my fore-parents to this country, the fortitude it took to accomplish all that they have, and the forgiving spirit it takes for them to have done and faced it all with grace and dignity. I look around me, and see in all of us now, the spirit of dreams fulfilled and those yet to come.