What does it mean to you to be Canadian?
Wow, that’s a tough one… For nearly 40 future Canadian citizens, both young and old, this was one of a handful of questions they were asked to answer in front of a room full of eager and excited inductees, their family and their friends.
What surprised you the most about Canada?
What have you done recently that made you feel Canadian?
What difference can you make to the country?
Their answers to these questions were both humourous and extremely inspiring. The soon-to-be Canucks were surprised by how often Canadians apologized and how everyone holds the door for you, even when you’re 30 feet away. They felt the most Canadian when playing in the snow, and planned on making a difference through volunteer work within their communities.
To some, becoming a Canadian meant extreme sacrifice: losing citizenship of their home country, leaving behind family and friends, and starting everything from scratch in an attempt to build a better life for themselves and their families. Before the ceremony I met a woman who had to leave her children and husband behind when she moved to Canada. It took her five years to save up enough money to fly her daughters, now six and 10 years old, to Canada where they would reunite. FIVE YEARS. The longest I’ve been away from my mother was four months. And that was more than enough.
The ceremony itself took place at the incredible Wanuskewin Heritage Park, just a few kilometres north of Saskatoon. The history of Wanuskewin goes back thousands of years and it’s a place I will definitely be back to visit soon.
After this experience and some genuine reflection, I found that I often take so much of this country’s greatness for granted. The freedom, the security, and the endless opportunity are just a spec on a long list of reasons why we should all be grateful to live in such an amazing place.
So, what does it mean to me to be Canadian?
It means welcoming all cultures, embracing diversity, holding doors, overusing "eh", and buying the person behind me at the Tim Hortons drive-thru a coffee.