Canada is for everyone. Our identity is not tied to a particular race or ethnicity. There’s no common Canadian experience. Rather, Canadian identity is malleable; it can accommodate people from all backgrounds and lived experiences. This is because Canadian identity is built around a set of aspirations, rather than a collection of physical or cultural features.
These aspirations include the notion that the content of your character matters more than the colour of your skin. The belief that though you may have been born in Gander, Trois-Rivières, Mississauga, Weyburn, Fort Chipewyan, Vancouver, or Mogadishu, we are united by the recognition that we are all in this together. That our fates are interwoven. That our place and success in this country is tied to others having the same opportunities.
Canada hasn’t always lived up to these ideals, particularly towards the people and communities who have called this land home since time immemorial. Much work has to be done. But, these aspirations push us to address the injustices of the past and present, and to ensure that each day is better than the last.
In many respects, the fluid and inclusive nature of Canadian identity makes it an outliner, even among democracies. That’s why we’ve managed to avoid the populist machinations that have swept western democracies in Europe and North America, electing governments that seek to impose a national identity that is tied to specific races and experiences at the exclusion of others.
We constructed this inclusive sense of Canadian identity deliberately. In the span of a few decades, Canada transformed from a country that viewed the racial and cultural diversity found within it as a threat to one that now understands and champions it as an asset. Official multiculturalism, laws that promote pluralism and the recognition of minorities, and an open attitude towards migrants led to this transformation.
It’s difficult to imagine Canadians flocking to support candidates for public office that intend to undo our commitment to multiculturalism, pluralism, and increased immigration. These policies serve as the bedrock of our political order. That’s why each major federal political party leader in Canada has recommitted to these policies over the past year, and which — to their credit — has caused the global wave that threatens this political consensus to not breach our borders.
But, what we’ve achieved is not a given and remains fragile. The social and immigration policies that created the Canada we know could be repealed. Canadian identity could be reconstructed around a particular race or ethnicity. Many could lose their claim to this country. It requires our continual recommitment to maintain.
This recommitment is even more important now because there are civil society actors and some politicians that hope to erode our adherence to these values. They want Canada to adopt the same exclusionary politics that other countries are experiencing. They want where you come from, what you look like, and what you believe in to determine if you can call yourself Canadian or consider this country home. They want to divide us, by telling us that our economic well-being is tied to how compassionate and inclusive we are. That our cohesiveness is adversely impacted by our commitment to diversity.
The arguments employed by these groups are simplistic, and perhaps compelling to many. But, they are wrong. Inclusivity is our strength, and results in greater prosperity. Diversity doesn’t undermine social cohesion. The countries that have succumbed to nationalist trends are not models that we should emulate.
Canada is better together; when the aspirational aims that undergird Canadian identity are front and centre, and our commitment to them is uncompromising.
It will take our collective efforts to fight back against the narratives that seek to destroy our inclusive notion of Canadian identity. The forces behind them are emboldened in the current political climate, and it seems improbable that Canada can weather this global storm unaffected.
But, we are confident that Canadians will rise to the challenge. We know and live the benefits of multiculturalism and pluralism each day. Canada is for everyone, and we’ll keep it that way.