By Munira Yusuf
February 15th marks Canada’s National Flag Day which commemorates the inauguration of the Canadian flag. For many, the flag creates a shared sense of identity that is often seen as a symbol of multiculturalism and neutrality. When we think of what it means to be Canadian, we may think of holding Canadian citizenship or sharing cultural practices such as saying sorry all the time or ordering a double double at Tim Hortons.
However, it is not only through these shared practices that we feel a sense of belonging, but how included we feel in society and the spaces that we hold. When we examine the importance of space it goes far beyond the physical to the symbolic meaning of what it means when certain bodies, including culture, race, and religion, are excluded or included within parts of our society. It is important for us as a society to create a sense of belonging and to come together to create space for others whose voices may not be heard. We can create belonging through elevating voices, holding space, and speaking out where there is injustice.
On May 30th 2020, supporters came together to protest the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 20-year old black woman that had lost her life after police were called to her home. Thousands of people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities took to the streets to stand in solidarity, protesting the loss of another black life.
When we can come together to face injustice and to mobilize for change, we are fostering a place in society where we can all belong and it is during these times of compassion that truly reflects what it means to be Canadian. In conversation with other community members, they shared their thoughts on what they think it means to be Canadian:
“When I think of what it means to be Canadian I think of freedom, multiculturalism, lots of immigrants, and peace” – Anonymous
“The only time I feel Canadian is when I go abroad and if I am asked where I am from. I think as a nation we are a kind, welcoming, and a generous community.” – P.J
“I want to be a Canadian citizen because the values this country upholds and the opportunities it offers to its people” – J.J
“To be Canadian means to be part of a country where opportunities and possibilities are limitless” – Missrosys
“Here in Canada, we exercise humanitarianism. Even though we are immigrants they treat us in a kind way. We have freedom of religion and free speech but not freedom to do bad things”– Anonymous