By Yousuf Ali, Staff Writer
“Really?” This was the response of practically every Canadian I spoke to whenever I said anything positive about their country. Being American, I have become used to defensiveness and chest thumping when it comes to issues of patriotism. People in our country proudly wave their flags and too often, become defensive the moment says anything that could be perceived as critical of the United States. Of course, there is nothing wrong with loving one’s country; however, we have to recognize that self-criticism is essential for improvement. If one truly loves his or her country, then one must be willing to acknowledge its flaws and work to address them. This is something I saw consistently through my experiences with Canadians.
I had the privilege of working with an indigenous Member of Parliament from Saskatchewan, and my 5 weeks in the office certainly helped me appreciate how far Canada has come when dealing with its native peoples. Of course, Canada still has a long way to go in solving all the problems with its native peoples; however, the fact that there are indigenous MPs advocating for their peoples’ rights is something to be celebrated. It is through these efforts that they can build the common understanding necessary to solve this centuries old problem. One cannot understand the present without understanding the past, and the struggle of Canada’s indigenous peoples illustrates this point.
In addition to indigenous affairs, I was pleased to see how Canadians dealt with Islamophobia. Going into the internship, we were asked to give any criteria for the MPs we will be placed with. I told our professor that my only deal breaker was opposition to the M-103 motion against Islamophobia which came after an attack in a Quebec City Mosque leaving six people dead. The motion ultimately passed despite opposition from the Conservatives. When I was speaking to a staffer, I told her how impressed I was by the inclusiveness of Canada. She responded by reminding me about the controversy of M-103 and its roots in anti-Muslim bigotry. In response, I told her that at least Canada had a government which was willing to acknowledge the problem instead of actively inflaming it. These experiences confirmed my best assumptions about Canadians.
Americans often make fun of how modest and nice Canadians are, but it is that modesty which is the source of their strength. When they acknowledge their imperfections, they are in fact, taking the first step towards remedying these. Canadians do not waste time bending over backwards attempting to justify the unjustifiable. This is in direct contrast to how people of other nationalities reflexively hurl accusations of being “unpatriotic” towards anyone who appears to suggest that their country has done wrong. Of course, there is nothing “patriotic” about obfuscating the faults of one’s country. In fact, acknowledging one’s own faults is a sign of strength, not weakness. The ability of Canadians to do this thereby setting in motion the process of improvement that has made Canada the great society that it is today.