An old beer commercial used the slogan, “I am Canadian” to sum up patriotic pride. Naturally, the images that most stick in my mind had something to do with attractive people hanging out by the lake, or drinking in a bar and cheering on hockey-playing beavers — or something to that effect.
When I chose to become Canadian none of those happy yet frivolous images were in my thoughts.
Immigrating to Canada at 13 wasn’t my choice. It was a decision that my parents made for the family as a whole. As a ginger-haired teenager, life was already awkward without the added burden of suddenly being the foreign kid who no one could understand. You see, I didn’t speak English, I spoke Glaswegian with an East Kilbridian burr.
My working-class brogue had erased the “th” sound from my vocabulary, so words like “think” and “thought” became “fink” and “fought.” I also used such foreign phrasing as “Aye” for “Yes” and “Ta” in place of “thanks.” There were even times when you would have thought I was speaking Gaelic rather than just trying to ask a teacher for permission to go to the washroom. “I’m burstin’, miss. Cannano use the loo?”
This language barrier became even more impenetrable when I attended French class. The teacher, who hailed from Quebec, thought I had been sent by Candid Camera. To her, I sounded like a tractor ripping her language up by the roots and shredding it to tatters before her ears.
In time, my accent softened and I came to love this foreign land as much as my birthplace. I never stopped being proud of my heritage, but I also became equally proud of growing to be more than I was, a citizen of two countries with memories in each that make me the person I
I chose to become a Canadian citizen because of all that it stands for. And it is because of this choice that I will fight to make sure we don’t lose our way, that we protect our values, rights and strengths. Being born here doesn’t make you Canadian. You have to choose that right. You have to vote, to challenge and to defend what it means. If you want better health care, fight for it. If you want more rights for seniors, speak up. And if you want to live in a country where young women aren’t afraid to go to a simple party, then you have to tell our youth what consent really is and by damn you won’t put up with any shortcuts.
I am Canadian. And I am proud. M