I’ve been thinking seriously about Canadian identity since I left the country in 2007. During my two years abroad, explaining Canada became a regular occurrence, and I didn’t and don’t find it an easy thing to do. After all, we have three coasts, a seriously diverse population and a political system that often throws me for a loop. I’ve always tried to shy away from bringing stereotypes into the mix, we are certainly more than maple syrup and mounties, but adequately defining Canada is a challenge that I’ve never quite mastered even though I’ve had a lot of experience.
Working on cruise ships I was often one of under four other Canadians. Ironically, it was often the American guests rather than my multi-cultural crew mates who had the least understanding of Canada, going so far as to asking if had a dog sled and how I dealt with the year round snow (seriously). How others see Canada is a mixed bag at best.
It isn’t surprising then that I loved Shelly Ambrose’s, “The Importance of Conversation,” talk at the recent TEDxWaterloo. Ambrose is the co-publisher of The Walrus and spent three years in public affairs at the Canadian Consulate in New York, among other things. In her talk she relates the challenge of changing New Yorkers perceptions about Canada – I felt her pain- and defining for herself who and what Canada is.
It certainly is a big question and one that I may never fully answer. For now, I’m happy to watch Republic of Doyle and listen to Matt Galloway in the morning which at least makes me feel truly Canadian – even if I can’t explain why.
p.s- As I was writing this Globe and Mail columnist John Doyle published, “It’s our Republic and we like it,” which talks about his interview with the BBC about the Republic of Doyle and how the show is defining Canada for international audiences.