True confession--I am ashamed to post the meme on the right on anything that can be read by others. It represents intolerance and an entrenched world view that contradicts everything I know about Canada. I’ve seen this meme many times on various social media, and it's past time to speak out.
Most often, the words are slightly different. “America” is politically incorrect, it reads, and “God bless America.” If I look at the meme closely, I can see that the words Canada and everyone are in different fonts (Who says, "God bless everyone" anyway? Even Dickens' Tiny Tim says, "God bless Us, Every One"!); my conclusion is that a disgruntled Canadian agreed with the American version and altered the meme to express some angst.
The Canada I know is better than this meme. The Canada I love is a society that is a model for the world.
The Canada I know is neither politically correct nor politically incorrect. My Canada shows respect for all people. In the Canada I know, language honors peoples and cultures; it doesn’t degrade them. As a nation, we recognize that long-standing phrases that served some groups well for generations are no longer appropriate in a society that is conscious of the power of implicit messages to empower and uplift. We change our language willingly as a result of growing understanding of the hurt certain words have caused and a desire to move forward. As I have said in another post, political correctness masks negativity, while respect is genuine.
In the Canada I know, the people who want to say “Merry Christmas“ say it. That phrase expresses their reality, and they are comfortable with it. They accept, as well, that many Canadians observe Christmas as a secular feast, not a religious one. They understand that, among those for whom Christmas is a holiday in December, newcomers to Canada make up only a small number, and that most have lived here for generations, even centuries, no matter whether their origins are European, Asian, African, or Middle Eastern. It’s just that society is making an effort to be inclusive. Why? Because it’s 2016.
Christianity has never been the defining worldview in our land for all people. For millenia, Christmas was unknown to First Nations, whose Creator manifested its presence through the land. For a time, as European newcomers came to dominate that land, their religious practices became the norm in Canada. Non-Christian newcomers and long-standing non-Christian or atheistic citizens lived with the way things were. The Canada I know evolves. My Canada can live with using “Happy Holidays” in broad, official contexts so that everyone can feel at home.
For the same reasons, the people in the Canada I know who want to trust in God will do that. Those who want to be blessed by their God will invoke that deity, and those who want others to be blessed will pray to their deity for that blessing. All of us can live with that. Those who do not believe in any deity won’t. Official activities that take occur in places that welcome everyone, like legislatures, government buildings and offices, public schools, and public hospitals, as well as the official symbols therein, must be secular. Religious blessings and prayer cannot be imposed on the general public. They are a matter of personal choice. (I accept the presence of personal religious symbols worn by people working in those establishments or frequenting them, like the Sikh turban, the Christian cross or rosary, or the niqab, for example).
Canadians have always honored their military. We have always been grateful for the sacrifice our troops have made to safeguard the freedoms we enjoy today. The Canada I know continues that tradition. My Canada has laws in place to protect those freedoms, so I know that people can make their home here and maintain those traditions of their homeland that are congruent with Canadian law.
The Canada I know is a welcoming place. It has welcomed more than 25,000 refugees since the fall. Individual Canadians have donated millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of items of clothing and household goods, and thousands of volunteer hours to help newcomers adjust to their new home. They also understand that a good number of these newcomers would rather be in their own land; strife and persecution in that country threaten their very lives, and that’s why they’ve come here.
The Canada I know undertands that a few people living in the past don’t define a country or a religion. My Canada knows that our country is built on the people that have always been here and those who have come from all corners of the world to create the society they could not construct in their own land. Canada is a grand experiment that works. All of us, no matter what our origins, live together in relative peace. Do we squabble once in a while? For sure. Still, though, we show the world that different races and cultures can do more than coexist in peace; they can thrive.
The Canada I know takes the high road. This sign defames everything we stand for.