Is Anyone Canadian?

One of the very first things I noticed after moving to Canada was the fact that nobody refers to themselves as a Canadian. Not in an every day context, at least, and not to each other. Instead, people refer to themselves as Scottish, Italian or Polish or whatever other country there family originated from.

This is because Canada is a land of immigrants. It’s almost impossible to find someone whose great grandparents were born on Canadian soil since the country is so young; but despite decades of Canadian residence, many of these people – now second or third generation – still whole-heartedly refer to themselves as being from another culture. But how can that be, often without them having set foot in there supposed country of origin, without citizenship or without the ability to speak the native tongue?


This is where boundaries get blurred: what makes a person who they are? Does the country they are born in and the culture they absorb define them? At what point is a person no longer an immigrant and what’s wrong with embracing the Canadian identity? When everybody claims to be from their ancestral land, it becomes difficult to determine who bravely made the leap to start a new life abroad and who was born into their current culture and customs.¬†As an immigrant and a geography student, this concept both frustrates and puzzles me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m the last person to be encouraging people to forget about their roots and heritage, just don’t go neglecting the big guy. Canadian first, Scottish/Italian/Polish/wherever your background is from, second. We’ve got a beautiful country here, let’s not forget it.


7 comments to “Is Anyone Canadian?”
  1. Part of being Canadian is having the humility to give respect to where your roots are. I think if you asked these people who identify as another culture if they also identified as Canadian, they’d agree. We just aren’t boastful people

    • I’ve found that part of what makes Canada so appealing to outsiders is the humility of it’s people. This was certainly a positive point for my family while arranging our own relocation.

      I’ve questioned some whom I am close with who identify themselves as as another nationality and many of them also identified themselves as Canadians – but at the same time, many didn’t. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but as someone who worked hard to become a Canadian citizen (and coincidentally, studies cultures across space), I just find it interesting that they openly identify themselves with somewhere they have never been over the country they were born and raised in.

  2. Simple answer. In a Canadian context Canadianess is inherently implied, so cultural background takes precedence. Outside such a context Canadianess needs statement. Kind of like how you don’t need to specify “ice hockey” if the ice is implied. It’s not so much a lack of pride, merely a cultural wariness of overstating that which is taken as given.

    • Context is key in this situation. Of course, it’d be silly for everyone living in Canada to announce to each other that they are Canadian – this is a given.

      Association with an individuals ancestral home distinguishes one Canadian to the next in a day to day context and in most cases, helps to promote knowledge and understanding between cultures. This is one of my favourite things about Canada.

      However, it is the few who do not see themselves as Canadians first (despite a citizenship and being raised into the culture) that puzzle me. Having met a few myself, I just find the concept curious since I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to embrace being from such a wonderful, wonderful place.

  3. I moved to Canada when I was 9, so for the first few years I would still say where I came from when people asked who I am. Now that it’s been 16 years, I consider myself a mixture of my background as well as being a Canadian citizen. When I visit other countries, I proudly claim I’m Canadian. I’ve absorbed the culture of Canada throughout the years as well as kept my culture from my original country. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    • The diversity of its people (and sometimes, within the people themselves) is what makes Canada such an interesting country to live in. If it wasn’t for my own immigration and therefore exposure to more cultures, I probably wouldn’t have discovered my passion in geography and travel – and this means a lot to me.

      I’m mainly specifying with those who in a daily context actively choose the country of their grandparents over the one they were happily born and raised in. I’ve met and spoken to many people like this and find it intriguing, since their grandparents probably went through a lot of become a Canadian citizen.

      But you’re right, there is nothing wrong with identifying with two (or more) cultures. Life’s more fun that way :)

  4. It’s hard to tell whether a person is a Canadian unless I hear them speak in his native language.

    More often than not, they come from other countries. I don’t want to be rude that’s why I refrain from asking a person of his origin unless I was asked first.

    Nonetheless, I feel comfortable if they are also a newcomer like me. At some point, one will become a Canadian eventually, so regardless of whether one is born a Canadian or otherwise, the important thing is to get along.

    Having said that, Canada, I think is leading in multiculturalism.

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