How can Canadian Christians celebrate Canada Day this year in a way that rightly honours a great country without falling into either idolatrous patriotism or divisive nationalism? It all comes down to the story we tell ourselves and others in our celebrations around the BBQ and the fireworks.
What is our story here in Canada? That's a loaded question; depending on who you are, it can be answered in many different ways. For years now, Canadians have been educated in a British-centric system that sugar-coated (or, more likely, neglected) the real experiences of the French or First Nations peoples in Canadian history. It’s hard to change, modify, or supplement these “official” stories of Canada that we tell ourselves.
The result is that if you are white and comfortably middle class today, your “Canadian story” will be far different than if you are a member of one of Canada's First Nations living in deplorable conditions on reserve. Or, if you are a person of Japanese descent whose grandparents or parents were rounded up and placed in concentration camps during World War 2. Or, if you are a refugee family without provincial or territorial medical insurance. Or, if you’re a Quebecois couple living out West because of work and subject to hushed ridicule because of your language or culture.
The problem with idealistic patriotism rooted in a single nationalistic story this Canada Day is that it runs the dangerous risk of taking one segment of the population – usually that white, middle class demographic – and treating their story as "The Canadian Story" that we all assume everyone shares in and benefits from. It masks the true nature of our society – one which has benefited many, but which also continues to marginalize so many others who are just as equally Canadian.
So how can we Canadian Christians celebrate this year in a way that contributes to the healing of our land?
Just a suggestion that will help us widen our understanding of who we are as Canadians and recognize the complexity of our stories—let’s celebrate this Canada Day with some folks who are different from ourselves, who have a different story in this country. Invite those neighbours whose language or customs or religion are different from yours to join you at the fireworks. Seek out those initial but significant ways to build community with those who have a different experience of Canada than you do. Open your mind and heart to listen to their stories. Maybe take some time to read about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's findings about the history and on-going consequences of the Indian Residential Schools (www.trc.ca).
One of the reasons for Canada’s strength (as well as challenges) is a commitment to diversity. It belongs to the calling of Canadian Christians to live our Jesus-discipleship by a renewed and robust commitment to citizenship. That’s something to celebrate and work toward this Canada Day!
[Image: Flickr user v1ctory_1s_m1ne]