What does it take to be Canadian? Will citizenship ever be enough? Or will we continue to ask people, “where are you from?” the infamous question that visible minorities must hear at least twice a month. The response “Canada” is never enough; it is almost always accompanied with a look of shock or disapproval, followed by “No I mean where is your family from?” The mainstream Canadian population is taught to believe, through our all excluded educational system, that all people of “ethnic origin” (non whites) just arrived in Canada 20, 30, 40 years ago. The systematic exclusion of the contributions, hardships and sacrifices that visible minorities had (and have) to face in Canada is almost never mentioned in any Canadian history book.
Although I understand their numbers may have been small a100 years ago, their stories are not. Their invigorating stories never grace the pages of mainstream history books or find their way into the lives of the Canadian society in general. Allowing the powers that be to continue painting Canada in a spectacular light of lies and deception.
My personal family background has always led me to understand that there is more to be told in Canadian history textbooks. I always had the feeling that what I was learning in school was not complete rather it was very oblique. My topic of interest had always been black people in Canada. I wanted to understand the make up of Canada and why so few black people lived in the western parts. To my surprise it was no coincidence, it was a well-orchestrated plan by various government officials and a specific railroad company. The idea was to “keep Canada white”, as much as possible.
My interest later flourished to other stories and other groups in Canada that have been omitted from the pages of Canadian history. Stories such as the Chinese Head Tax or slavery in Canada were never in my high school curriculum. History plays a key role in building many things, relationships are one of them. Minimizing a peoples existence in Canada attempts to minimize their significance in the country. A country I believe they are willing to be a part of, but that just won’t fully let them in. Canadian society as a whole would benefit from the inclusion as opposed to exclusion of people. Isolation does not build bridges, indeed it breeds hate and promotes ignorance.
We need to do more to acknowledge and value the contributions that various cultures have given Canada in substantial ways, not simply in a parade or a policy. We need to work on being the great Country we claim to be.
No matter how long a ‘visible minority’ lives in Canada, he or she is not viewed as Canadian. They are treated as outsiders infringing on the lives of “Canadians.” The last I checked they are expected to pay taxes as well. Which means they are as much a part of this society as anyone else and when we can finally accept and respect that, Canada will better reflect the best of it’s legacy. We need to stop hiding and start apologizing where need be. We need to make the theory and practice of multiculturalism become one.