Are you proud to be (insert your nationality)? How I feel being Canadian.

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Note: this post was written in early 2015. A few things have changed since then and they’ve been noted at the bottom of the page.

Walking around Split, our guide mentioned a few times how proud she was to be Croatian. Later, having a beer on our balcony, Lissette asked me what I thought of that. And then asked me if I feel proud to be Canadian.

Firstly, I can see why Croatians would be proud of their country: Croatia is a new nation and their independence had to be fought for. They are united by both that struggle as well as Catholicism (most of the Balkans are either Orthodox or Muslim). Nothing unites people more than being surrounded by historical adversaries with religious differences (look no further than Israel). Croatia’s economy is outperforming that of much of the region and they have recently been accepted as members of the European Union. Besides all that, they have a beautiful country with an incredible history dating back to the Greek and Roman empires. Croatians have many reasons to feel pride in their country.

I had to think harder about how I feel being a Canadian. I know I don’t feel the same pride as I did when I was younger. I remember Canada in the 80’s, and even the 90’s, when being Canadian stood for something. We were peacekeepers, diplomats and aid workers. Canada had a large role in Foreign Aid and I travelled to Africa several times in my late teens (i.e. in the late 1980’s) where I saw the impact of that. Back then, flashing a Canadian passport usually brought a smile or comment. Even before that Canadian moms would sow a Canadian flag on their children’s backpacks. That’s what my mother did before I went off on my first independent trip to Spain in 1984. One of the reasons for all the Canadian flags on backpacks was that no Canadian wanted to be misidentified as American. Sorry, but Americans weren’t well regarded. Even Americans sowed Canadian flags on their backpacks. Being Canadian stood for Goodwill. I think if you ask any Canadian they’ll tell you that they felt a lot of pride being Canadian in those days.

Much of that Canadian identity has gone by the wayside. We are no longer peacekeepers (we are actually the only Western nation right now engaged in ground warfare in Iraq), we’re no longer known as diplomats (our current Prime Minister, Mr. Harper, is more right wing than the American President. This basically makes him an extremist on the world stage) and we have a minimal role in Foreign Aid (gradually scaled back, then obliterated by the Harper government). This government has bent over backwards being isolationist, divisive and un-cooperative. Outwardly, Canada’s reputation has gone the way of Bill Cosby’s – we’re no longer the ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ of the world. We are no longer Mr. Anything of the world.

So I am I proud to be Canadian? In one sense the answer is ‘No’. Not right now.

But politics aside, as a Canadian and a traveller, I can tell you a few things. I don’t know of any people anywhere who are as friendly as Canadians. Canadians are an incredibly friendly people – walk up to someone on the street and ask them a question and they won’t wave you away or look in the other direction. They’ll almost always try to help you out and you might find other people joining in, curious to help. Really. Meet Canadians overseas and you’ll almost always end up in a conversation, there is an openness in Canadians that you won’t see in many other nationalities. At home, Canadians are among the most tolerant and welcoming people on earth and have historically opened their arms to all nationalities and colours. I remember as a teenager having Chinese, Muslim, and black friends. It was never an issue. Many Canadians, especially those raised in cities, will have the same experience (most Canadian cities are very racially diverse). I saw a piece in the news a few months ago testing the openness of Canadians to immigrants; it portrayed two actors, one a white guy, another a Muslim dressed in Islamic garb. The shot was filmed around a bus stop in downtown Toronto and shows the white guy bullying and harassing the Muslim man. Bystanders all had the same reaction, telling the white guy off, telling him to leave the Muslim alone. A woman started yelling at him, shaking her finger in his face and telling him how you don’t “act this way in Canada”. The white actor ended up getting punched in the nose by a young man. How they stood up to the bully brought tears to my eyes. We are not immune to certain feelings towards minority groups with all that’s going on these days but, push comes to shove, 99% of Canadians will defend a minority group’s rights to be and to express him/herself. I think as Canadians this openness and tolerance is what we are most proud of. And if you want to feel good about being Canadian, listen to all the stories of people leaving prosecution in places around the world for a life in Canada. They love the freedom, the liberties, the safety, peacefulness and the multiculturalism of Canada (on top of all the natural beauty).
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Check out the great Molson Canadian ad above. It was done back in 2000. It’s sad that Canadian patriotism can be stirred up by a beer ad (and ironic that Molson was bought out by an American company in 2005). But Canadians are not very patriotic and this ad did strike a chord with many. Have we Canadians changed that much since then?

I think the answer to the above is ‘no’. But I have to do a lot of digging into what being Canadian is about to feel proud these days – because Canadian policies no longer reflect a kind and gentle vision of Canada. And while we can feel pride in our beliefs and values, our national psyches take a beating when others no longer look at us as a positive influence in the world.

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Are you proud to be (insert your nationality)? Do you consider Patriotism over-rated or even dangerous? Or are you just apathetic to the whole thing? Interested to hear your thoughts.

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Addendum: In late 2015 Canada elected a new Prime Minister from the Liberal party. Yay!
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Comments

  1. I am very patriotic, and it ties in very closely with all aspects of my life, including travel and my political views. However, I mostly keep politics out of my travel writing since my beliefs tend to be in the minority for the sphere. And while I am proud of my country, that pride does not blind me to my country’s flaws. There is no perfect country; some can be better at some things than others, but overall, yes, I’m patriotic and proud of it.
    Katrina Elisabet recently posted…Quintessentially VirginianMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Katrina. Patriotism also defines a country and the reason I wrote about it here was because of the patriotism we’ve seen in our short time in Croatia which touches many aspects of life, including for the traveller. We came over Easter and were surprised that every store was closed Easter Sunday. In fact everything was closed, it was a ghost town. We were a bit surprised and asked our guide about it. She was very honest, telling us that Croatia has become ‘more Christian’ since the war and that it was an aspect that she really didn’t like much. But on the other hand she loves her country, with religion being part and parcel of that. I think things like religion and politics are foundamental to understanding a place and part of what makes travelling interesting. But what is also great about travel is that it makes us reflect on our own country and see it with different eyes. And I think that can be a good thing.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment Katrina ;)

  2. “Canadian identity has gone by the wayside.. we`re no longer peacekeepers and no longer diplomats”.

    Isn`t that the truth. For many, many years I`ve been ecstatic about being Canadian & always felt we won the Lottery of Life being born here. I still feel that way, but man oh man, Canada has a lot of warts now. Too much racism (here in British Columbia anyway) and so many gangs in the last 20-30 years, all shooting and killing members of rival gangs.

    We never had guns in our country when I was growing up.. (except for hunters.) We were friendly and peaceful.

    I need to think about this topic a little more, but for now I`ll just say that yes, I love being Canadian.

    Carol

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks for your opinion Carol! I’m surprised to hear about the racism in BC, I remember living there many, many years ago and that wasn’t the case. But that’s going on 35 years and Vancouver had a very relaxed, almost small-town, vibe. I don’t know how that compares to Quebec because bigotry is an issue there as well.
      I wonder if it’s all a sign of the times, everywhere.

  3. I am proud of being a Nigerian. I know we get a bad rep with the rest of the world, but we have accomplished a few things in the short few years of independence ( growing pains..it was only in 1960). There will always be the few bad apples everywhere :-(. Good article, food for thought.
    Kemkem recently posted…Cinquantenaire Park, Brussels and my Snapshot.My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you for your comment Kemkem. The idea with this post was to illicit exactly this kind of feedback. You’ve mentioned a few times in passing your life in Africa and I find your perspective really interesting. People from the developed world often think ‘immigrants coming to our country must be so proud and happy to leave their countries behind to come here’. The truth is that a lot of immigrants I’ve spoken to deeply miss their countries and their people and would go back at a moment’s notice if it wasn’t for ethnic persecution, poverty, or for the future of their children. Despite the things that made them leave their countries they are often very proud of their homeland.

  4. I think that most people still have a great opinion about Canadians. :)
    Laura recently posted…10 Amazing Places To Visit In RomaniaMy Profile

  5. Gordana Govic says:

    One click on a Facebook article on Split and next thing I know a couple of hours have passed as I discovered your blog. What fun! We are ex-Montrealers now living half the year in New Brunswick and the other half in Granada, Nicaragua. My husband and I are both immigrants. I was born in Italy in a refugee camp, my dad was Croatian (Yugoslav at that time) and my mom was Italian. My husband was born in Switzerland from Polish parents. We are proud Canadians and love to tease our US of A friends in Granada at happy hour when we outnumber them.

    We both travel as much as possible and I don’t know if its “being Canadian” or “being happy travelers” that make a difference. Cheers!

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      What a nice comment. You are both what makes Canada great (i.e. the mix of cultures).
      I was in Granada (oops, almost spelled it Grenada) a few years back. I think honestly that Nicaragua a much more interesting place than Costa Rica. Maybe that’s because all the Americans go to Costa Rica :)
      Yeah, I think we’ll be ex-Montrealers soon too. I’m sure for many of the same reasons…
      Keep in touch, would love to hear about your lives in Nicaragua!

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