Culture , Tradition and Being Canadian

For as long as I’ve been alive(and likely further back) I have listened to Canadians argue, complain and rant about our culture and who has a right to it.   I don’t think I’m alone in my feelings but I think there’s a lot of people out there who claim to be “Canadian” but have no idea what it means.  I admit, I have been confused in my own life.

Canada, by world standards, is still a relatively “new” country.  We rarely see a building over 120 years old.  Someday I’d like to get to Old Quebec and see the historical buildings that are nearing 300 years of age~ wow!

There’s 2 ways to look at being Canadian~ by choice or by birth.  I would like to say that I choose BOTH!

My parents were born on Canadian soil as were my grandparents.  Even most of my great-grandparents were born here but that is where the lines blur.   I have Russian Mennonite heritage strong on my mom’s side(all of them actually) and then Irish, Scottish and Norwegian on my dad’s side.  Incidentally, most of the immigrants came to this country at roughly the same time~ late 1800’s.    They came for land.  They came for religious freedom and they came because there was nothing left for them in their countries.

I do not want anyone telling me that their sacrifices were in vain  and that they no longer matter.  My great-grandparents tilled the soil in Saskatchewan that had never been touched.  They were the true pioneers.  But I will tell you, they gave up much.  Leaving a homeland that they loved~family, friends and stability.   Coming to a harsh climate, unknown language and territory.  They came wanting better for their children.  And in the process they relinquished some of their own identity.  Sometimes, unwillingly, they had to give up their mother-tongue so that their children could be educated in English.  Not easy to do when you are in your 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.   My grandma and even my mother still spoke their native Low-German together and at home.   And what is wrong with that? Nothing.  They chose to worship in church services with that same language~ many communities have carried on doing so even today.

Are they or am I any less Canadian because of language?  I say no!  But I do know they had a respect and reverence for this country that welcomed them in and gave them land and freedom. Yes, there have been obstacles.  And no, not everything in the past 100+ years has gone as my great-grandparents would have chosen.  But we, as a family, as a culture , have become Canadian.  Adhering to the laws of the land, serving where needed, educating and entering the work force.  I do not have one person in my family history who willingly took assistance from the government.  They worked for everything they had and paid back every debt.  These are people with a high work ethic and honor coursing through their veins.

This is Canada~ a country made up of several nations. People seeking a better life and willing to sacrifice much.

In 2011 we now have some Muslim parents in Winnipeg wishing for their children to be exempt from music and phys ed on religious grounds. These same parents have asked the school board to not teach anything about the holocaust or the crusades as those VERY HISTORICAL FACTS go against their religion.  Really?  This is Canada , right?   You can set up private schools here, you can homeschool.  It’s great!  20 years ago homeschooling was illegal in almost every province in Canada(which was stupid, I admit) but now, you can teach your kids what you want!  Why oh why do the schools HAVE to change what they teach and how they teach?   My Mennonite ancestors chose to educate their kids in community schools in Low-German.  The Canadian government came in and stopped that in the 1920’s which is why many immigrated to Mexico and other South American countries.  I don’t believe the government had malicious intent but they really didn’t handle that situation well at all.  Today we see Hutterite colonies  that educate their children on the colony in their mother tongue as well as English.  But these are peaceable people, not interested in changing the way you and I do things but rather preserving that which they feel is important to their culture and heritage.  They obey the laws; they are not trying to activate their own justice system or impose their beliefs on any of us. They do business with the rest of society and might I add they are wonderfully helpful and giving neighbours if you are so lucky to live near them.

I am Canadian.    I am Mennonite.   I am Scottish.  I am Irish.  I am Norwegian.    I AM CANADIAN.    I like my roast beef well done, with lots of gravy and mashed potatoes.  Give me watermelon and roll-kuchen in the summer and shortbread at Christmas time.  Let me hear my family sing O Canada loud and proud every family reunion followed by hours of singing, some which include Low-German.

It is possible to have a heritage, a culture to be proud of and STILL be a Canadian.  Canada is not up for sale.  It does not go to the ethnic group who has the most imports this year.  You wanna come live here? Then LIVE here and be sure that you know what it means to “Stand on guard for Thee, O Canada.” If you want Canada to change for you, you came to the wrong place~ you’ll have to find someone else to take you in.   Canada was founded upon the Christian faith and upon the Christian faith Canada will continue to stand.

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