By PAT WATSON
Pity those of us who live in Toronto. For the sake of a strike, was this city of immigrants any less Canadian on the 142nd anniversary of the enactment of the British North America Act that first marked the uniting of four provinces into the single nation of Canada? Yesterday was Canada Day and, as a result of the strike by City workers, we had to crowd into fewer locations to celebrate.
Thank goodness for the provincially sponsored events, since we couldn’t take our celebration to the Toronto Islands or enjoy fireworks at Ashbridge’s Bay.
Then again, was it just a day off in the middle of the week? Or, was it a time to celebrate and reflect on our good fortune at living in a country of relative peace and prosperity?
Anyone who has lived someplace else and now makes Canada his or her home or, moreover, taken the further step of becoming a citizen of this country, has the benefit of knowing what it is like to feel rooted in two places. That person has the benefit of making real comparisons between being a member of this society and some other in the world. Especially here in Toronto, we run the gamut of hyphenated Canadians, for the world is represented here, albeit in its Canadianized form.
But how does one go from being an immigrant to becoming a Jamaican-Canadian, a Trinidadian-Canadian or any other hybridized Canadian?
The main agent in the process is time. Of course, we bring our traditional cultures with us. We bring our jerk chicken and butter chicken, our roti and our patty. We bring Carnival and rebrand it Caribana.
But, somewhere along the way, we end up with: ‘Nice weather, eh?’ Sooner or later, we start referring to this city as T’rono and, at some point in our conversation, we may have to excuse ourselves because we have to go to the washroom. We find ourselves caring about both the cricket and the baseball scores. We even fret that the Toronto Maple Leafs keeps us waiting to enjoy the glory of bringing home the Stanley Cup. And, some of us have admitted to enjoying watching curling matches. (Something to do with ice rinks, heavy polished rocks, brooms and the phrase ‘hurry hard’.)
Yes, we take those trips back home to the old country as often as possible but, over time, something about Canada gets into our systems and like the haunting sound of the loon in the back country, or the smell of sweet grass in the spring and summer, something about Canada calls us back.
Then, because we are in the information age, loaded with all kinds of communications gadgetry, when we travel to other places, we find ourselves checking online for the Canadian news and the weather in our adopted hometowns. We leave for a few days and we start to get nostalgic about being back in Canada. You travel to New York or Chicago and when people ask where you’re from, instead of saying Bridgetown or Georgetown, you say proudly, Toronto. When did that happen?
Or, if you have been living here for a significant number of years, you begin to feel some twinge of resentment when someone asks where you are from. You want to say, I’m Canadian. Now, when did that happen?
Maybe you are not a flag waver – how very Canadian of you – but you feel a certain sense of pride in knowing, without a doubt, that you are part of the fabric of this country, despite knowing that it’s not perfect. But then, which place on Earth is?
Maybe it happened when you stopped thinking of this as their country and started thinking of it as your country. Or maybe it happened when, even though you are from a tropical country, you found yourself for the first time complaining when the temperature hit 28 degrees Celsius.
Whenever or wherever it happened, no doubt Canada Day now holds some special meaning for you just like it does for all (hyphenated) Canadians.
On a note of bereavement and remembrance…
Now that Michael Jackson, the ‘King of Pop’, has suddenly and tragically ‘left the building’, this generation will carry forward its own pop culture demigod, making him even larger than he was during his lifetime. On a parallel matter, some of us will now understand better the post-Elvis phenomenon.