I’m sitting at a German pub with my German husband and two other Canadian friends visiting. FACTS: I’m Canadian (born in Afghanistan – moved to Canada when I was 3). My two friends are also Canadian (one was born in Iran but moved to Canada when he was 12 and the other was born in Canada to a Malaysian mom and British dad). Just to state the obvious, we aren’t “white”.
A friendly, German man next to me leans over, notices we are speaking English and joins our conversation. After a few minutes he asks us where we are from – I start “Canada”, my two friend also say “Canada” and my husband says “Germany”. The man’s eyebrows raise each time we say “Canada”, as if he doesn’t believe us – and then he opens his mouth and confirms the thought. “But how can you be Canadian – where are you really from?”.
I find this thought very interesting. Is it because in Germany, people are only really considered “German” if they have German blood in them, from the people who originally lived here (which is also starting to get a bit muddled as you already have second generation Turkish-Germans here)? Every time this topic comes up, I have to clarify that being “Canadian” does not mean that you are “white”. Everyone is from somewhere else in Canada – the only true “Canadians”, if we would want to really point them out, are the First Nations – Canada’s truly original inhabitants. (Don’t get me started on correcting the Germans from calling First Nations – Indianer – argghh.)
I am Canadian and I am originally from Afghanistan. I think that’s the beauty of Canada – we are all Canadian and we can be from somewhere else if we want to be. Some people identify more with where they are originally from and others don’t. Some wear turbans, some wear head scarves, some wear dreadlocks, some wear bikinis, some wear tatoos – it doesn’t matter – no one is MORE “Canadian” than the other. We are all just Canadian and that’s it.
And I think that’s where the brilliance of it comes in. Allowing you to have your own culture, practice your own religion and hold your own beliefs, but also accepting its general laws and rules, Canada has done what many countries are still struggling desperately with. It has included everyone. Inclusion is what we should we striving for – not integration.