Why I was ashamed to be a Canadian

I think the best way to begin this is by telling you about my family history.
My father arrived to this beautiful country all by himself as a teenager. After finishing high school in Manitoba, he came to study at the University of Saskatchewan where he met my mother, received his two degrees and proceeded to work there for another two decades.

Over my entire lifetime, I have had to learn about ignorance because it wasn’t something that even existed to cross my mind as a child. My household was a literal example of cross-cultural acceptance.  I simply thought it was normal that people had different backgrounds and cultures. I learnt about Norwegian customs: we celebrated Christmas eve with Yule Bread, the Nativity scene, and lefse. I learnt about Chinese New Year: All of the superstitions, what the big meal meant, and how to get that red envelope from my elders 😉 Two of my great aunts spent several decades overseas, one in India and the other in Ethiopia, so we heard all kinds of stories about life across the globe and how differently people lived, yet how similarly we all love.

Most importantly, I learnt about how crucial it is to embrace people and make them feel like they are home. My mom has taught English as an Additional Language to immigrants, and my dad worked as a researcher out of the University for years. Through their jobs, we met several different people from all over the globe.  Over the years, on holidays and for different family events, we welcomed foreign students, new immigrants and some people who just couldn’t get all the way home for special holidays. I remember my dad once telling me that it was important to him to do so because so many people welcomed him and made him feel at home when he came to Canada. It never really was a question, if we knew someone would be alone for a holiday, they were to be invited to the Chan household.

Tonight I sat in shock as he recounted the following story to me. He has an assigned parking spot at the location where he has been working. When he came to park in that spot, he was surprised to find someone sitting in the spot. After pointing to indicate that it was his spot, the driver refused to move for him. After a bit of a standoff, he had to go back to work, so he got out of his car and asked the lady to move out of his parking spot. Her response still confuses me. “You’re trouble. You immigrants are the problem.” She then threatened to call the police and told him he was in trouble.

Ok, let me just stop there. I’m very confused by this statement. So, his immigration to Canada over 4 decades ago somehow relates to YOU parking in HIS spot HOW? This person repeated this phrase and sentences similar to it over and over again, somehow insulted by his simple request to park in the spot that he was entitled to.

In light of recent events around the world, the issue of immigration/refugees has garnered quite a lot of spotlight. Ignorant, rude, racist statements have been exchanged over social media and fear has somehow overtaken this once open-hearted nation. My father, who always seems to find a way to make new friends laugh, yet possesses a quiet, strong way of taking in the world around him has never been one to “cause trouble” because he believes it wouldn’t change anything. Perhaps he is right. I’m sure there are people who will always harbour this kind of fear, anger, hatred and ignorance in their hearts. But I have to believe that the more we talk about how wrong these kinds of occurrences are, the less it will happen.  My heart is broken, and it took me a while to figure out why.

My heart is broken, because I realized that it had nothing to do with my father being an immigrant, and everything to do with the fact that he wasn’t white. And some white person somehow believed that she was more entitled to a parking spot for that simple fact. Here’s a thought: Unless you can trace your ancestry back and are 100% native to this land, all of us have been immigrants, or come from people who immigrated at some point.  And, not only have we broken the hearts of those who cared for and loved this land before we set foot on it, but have flourished simply from being here, instead of somewhere else.  How does that entitle any of us to anything more than another? This kind of hatred and ignorance is something that I had believed in my heart of hearts wasn’t part of Canada. I don’t know that I could say that I’ve ever felt ashamed of being a Canadian until tonight. Because tonight, I am ashamed of sharing citizenship with someone who could be so wrong.

But then, I think of others who have immigrated to this country. And it makes me proud to share citizenship with someone who could be so right. And this is what being a Canadian is truly about. My father has taught me a lot of things about being a Canadian: do not create conflict- but stand up for yourself and what is right, respect your government, seek peace,  care for your neighbours and your neighbours’ neighbours, always do what is right-even when no one is watching, work hard, do your best, be proud of who you are, show grace and forgiveness even if it is unsolicited and probably undeserved.  I suppose I have a lot to learn from my father, who it seems, has grasped the true nature of being Canadian better than some who were born on this soil.

Initially I was angry, and wanted to post an image of that person, but I knew it would only create more anger and backlash for that person. I guess you could say that I then became ashamed of my own anger and hateful attitude.  Plus, I just don’t believe this kind of hurtful behaviour really deserves specific attention. Despite my own initial anger, I know this is not the Canadian way.

In conclusion, I’m not ashamed of our country at all and I’m sorry if the title threw you off. I’m ashamed that we still have people like this here. Because I do believe that we are a nation that stands for multiculturalism and tolerance and peace. None of these attributes were represented in this woman’s actions, but I believe that my dad did stand for these things in his response. Initially what I wrote began as an angry outlet, which I didn’t necessarily intend to share, given the amount of anger already floating around on the Internet. It soon became my attempt to write a different sort of post- one that doesn’t just stand by and let this kind of behavior simply happen without note, but brings to light a more positive outlook instead of feeding the monster I call the angry Internet troll. Peace, love, grace and patriotism do prevail- I LOVE being Canadian. It’s true: pride ourselves on being kind, polite, and welcoming, and we do love beer, maple syrup and hockey (along with apologizing too much, eh?).

But let’s not fool ourselves, we still have much work to do. Above all my patriotism lies with the human race and all of the people fighting to let love win. Far too often, people stand on two sides of an issue and fire different kinds of hatred at each other. I’m hoping this encourages people to stand for justice while keeping in mind that love and kindness go a long way.

My dearest Canadians and fellow citizens of this beautiful planet, let us open up our hearts again. Fight hate and fear with love, grace and forgiveness.

xoxo

love ehjae

 

Chan

 

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10 thoughts on “Why I was ashamed to be a Canadian”

  1. We Canadians are not perfect. 5% of us give the othe 95% a bad name. Your heart breaks easily , I have been here 56 years, I was born here. I am part native. That cant stop there being rude people. White people , immigrents and natives have all been rude. That doesnt break my heart. I remember that when they say”you are trouble” they are talking about themselves. Shallow rude people only have one yard stick themselves, they can only see traits in other that they have in themselves. Uf there is something to gain from this, this also is the same with angery people. As they ran7t way listen and hear that they are talking about themselves. The urge to smile from ear to ear has to be halted, if you want to keep your teeth. Have a good day. The woman was rude. Enjoy everybody else. The other 95% of us wont hold it against you.

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  2. Very sad to hear about this- your mom and I were room mates while I was at the U of S, and we were very involved with international students. They added a layer of richness to our lives. Thanks for the picture of the 4 A’s

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  3. For a while I was thinking,to reply or not! kind like yourself! read again and again and now is my reply!
    No, in the beginning title didn’t threw me off. I thought, o, another anti-Harper article! But then is your family story which in general sad what happened to your father and your feeling to be Canadian that came to good conclusion. Then came this “white” lady who think all other are not welcomed immigrants. I don’t think you have to mention the race of that individual! If we want to be a better nation, we shouldn’t mentioned the color of the skin, but see PERSON! Judge or respect individual and do not, repeat, do not generalize! I think you should post the picture of that lady, but instead( most probably on the request of your parents) you decided to put toll on all whites( do dilute the anger) She, who should be accountable for her bizarre, unacceptable behavior, doesn’t matter sex or color! So now, about 85 % of whites do not pay attention about color( include myself) 11% undecided and may join 4% of people who really hate immigrants and in the first possibility may do such ——– act!
    Now be my Judge!
    Soviet born, Ukrainian in my heart, Proud Canadian, male, I don’t care, but white (like to suntan)
    Or just simply: Alex Yatsina

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    1. For the record what I’m stating here isn’t trying to toss your opinions in the trash. I’m not here to cause and argument. What I want to cause is a shift of thinking. As you will read…

      Being a white isn’t the point here. Being a white myself I can understand that we have bad tendencies. But so do all other races. If the person who was less than kindly to her father was a Black, or First Nation, Afgan etc. It would not have mattered for her article.
      The only thing that would’ve changed is the replies here about which race is potentially being picked on. Which I find is sad that whites are quite sensitive to such a thing.
      I don’t think we should “whitewash” (not trying to puny here) other races all together by not mentioning what race they are. But rather accept someone for who they are no matter who they are, and don’t see it as a problem but as a character aspect, something positive!

      Also showing the person’s picture wouldn’t be helpful. Pointing a finger to one person just gives a target for everyone to point at, thus removing the need to look at ourselves and say, how many times have I been fearful of immigrants? How many times has that fear lead to anger that really has no good grounds? And so on… I know I’ve done bad things at times in relating to other cultures but I am willing to learn and repair and make healthy relationships with anyone I meet if I can.

      “My dearest Canadians and fellow citizens of this beautiful planet, let us open up our hearts again. Fight hate and fear with love, grace and forgiveness.” I agree let’s break free of this negative outlook and hold true to what a real Canadian is. What will we be if we are not that? (food for thought)

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  4. I am Canadian, through and through and yes I’m white. I don’t have a problem with immigrants, what I have a problem with is them not learning the English language and forcing their customs on us. If we visit certain countries, woman have to cover their heads. Why? That isn’t a Canadian custom. If we have to change in their countries, they should have to in ours. Become Canadian if you want to live here. There are so many languages here and the last time I checked English is the primary language. They can come here all they want, just become Canadian. Your religion is your religion, keep it to yourself. We don’t need to know about it. Further to that, we are concerned about refugees coming here because of the terrorist problems the world is facing right now. The next point being, why aren’t we taking care of the Canadians before helping other countries. We have homeless, jobless people that need our care before handing our resources to another country. This is only my opinion and more than 5% agree with me. I never seen so much controversy as I have in the last few months. Perhaps we are concerned about the future of our country.

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  5. Every country in the world has its share of rude people. Among all the native cultures on the North American there were rude men and women. However, that being said, we must not tolerate rudeness, intolerance, and more importantly, ignorance of good manners.
    All spiritual realms, all courtesies, all anti-bullying teachings promote good manners, kindness, tolerance, and politeness. Adults teach the younger children in every culture in various situations: at home, in schools, in churches, etc. and yet these basic principals of living together never seem to reach every single human being in sustaining ways. We train teachers, pastors, and a myriad of other types of employment so that we can reach our children. But……it never seems to come to fruition on a permanent basis. I want the world to be at peace, starting with the basic simple way of living in kindness, patience, politeness, etc. and I believe that it can be achieved with the strength of tolerance. May we be more loving by practicing these lifestyle principles, we pray.

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  6. Hmm. Interesting. I call myself canadian. But am i? On my fathers side i am native and irish, and on my mothers i am dutch/german and gypsy. Hmmm. Yes. I am stull canadian. Proud to be. I see why you would be ashaned of people like that. But i say focus on the positive. Not te negative. During my life i have often focused on the negative. Perhaps curcumstances ice lived in brought me to that but regardless, it has gotten me nowhere fast. I may have turned away some friends of mine. Good friends. Like family to me. From my church. And that is the worst thing. We should be careful what we say. There is absolutely no shame in being canadian. I used to say i was ashamed to be white. But now i find pride in it, seeing as many of us are racially prejudiced ourselves by other whites. Other whites may either pick us apart or make us look bad. But as a result we have had to deal with much mental instability. We are a hardy race. I take as much pride in my canadian heritage as i do my gypsy. Aint nobody gunna take my canadian spirit eh?

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  7. It is very sad that so many Canadians have closed hearts. They say these immigrants will burdon our finances & our medical system. They say that we are letting in terrorists. Now they are afraid of these people due to PTSD. Then we should help our own first? WHY can’t they say how can we HELP these poor desperate people? We have so much to share and yet we are selfish and afraid. I’d like to think that the majority of Canadians actually care enough to help!

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