I wanted to go to a speech thingy in the Spring 2017 semester at my school. The topic was about Canadian Values and that thing where Kellie Leitch was talking about testing for them among immigrants because that’s a good idea for some reason and not at all indicative of unnecessary paranoia given the already extant requirements to immigrate to Canada. I missed the deadline to go in, and then I kind of shrugged and forgot about it, and now I’m trying to write and publish more, so I figured I would get out that thing I wrote for it. So, here it is.
It occurred to me as I was reading some of the arguments in favour of this proposed “values” test, that the question about whether a person or group of people has Canadian Values is very different from what it is framed as. The person speaking said that they were speaking about tolerance, about equality, etc etc. This made the real question clear:
Do you believe our lies?
Do you believe our lies about being so in favour of multiculturalism even though the KKK still exists in Canada? Do you believe our lies about being bilingual when most Canadians can’t have a long conversation in French? Do you believe our lies about being so tolerant, so open to other perspectives (so long as that doesn’t include the native peoples’ of course)? Do you believe our lies about having a spotless history? About being so very far ahead of the curve on social issues? Do you believe our lies about always being polite?
…I kind of do. I believe your lies, Canada. You say them with such a nice smile, after all, and you’ve been so kind about them, it’s hard not to believe your lies. I believe your lies hard enough to have learnt conversational French, to have volunteered, to have wanted to vote because I thought that one mostly-competent white guy was quite a bit better than that other mostly-competent white guy.
These lies Canada tells about itself are a kind of creation myth. And who doesn’t like those? In the beginning was the word, first Gaia and Uranus had the gods as children…and so on.
People are variable. Within the white, Anglo-Saxon Canadian tradition alone you have different approaches to Christianity, to race, to politeness, to what constitutes hard work and what doesn’t. A great many Canadian academics I know have never played hockey. There will always be some sections of the population whose aims do not quite align with the creation myth, because the creation myth is a lie you want to buy into, not a description of a state of affairs. You can’t have a homogeneous mosaic. That’s just a colour with a bunch of cracks in it.
Why would anybody think everyone who lives here has to believe Canada’s lies? The answer is they don’t. There are no plans to deport Canadian-born citizens who aren’t hard-working and tolerant, otherwise there would not be sections of the KKK still in Canada. You want somebody who believes your lies to come to your place because those are the people you can use the best. The people whose lives have value to you not in birthdays and in graduations and in stumbles and successes, but in dollars, and in rallies, and in votes. You want people who believe your lies because they are the most convenient to have around. With them, you don’t have to evaluate your lies every once in a while.
This is not of course to damn the Canadian Ideal and declare it dead. Fallen as many have declared the American dream. I have a great fondness for the Canadian Ideal of multiculturalism, acceptance, politeness and peacekeeping. However, one must be aware that the reality and the ideal do not match, and will never match. They can’t. One is a direction, and the other one is a location.
But we can try, and we can believe the lies we tell ourselves about what Canada means, what being Canadian is.
We must accept, then, that every section of Canada–men and women, rural and urban, rich and poor, religious and secular, traditional and innovative– will have slightly different lies. The Muslim Canadians will have a slightly different lie to tell themselves than the Christian Canadians because for both groups, being Canadian is tied to their religion. The hockey-playing Canadians will have a different point of view than the book-writing Canadians too, but we don’t use that as a reason to deny them value or entry into the country. If you want others to believe your lies about Canada… perhaps you should believe theirs in return.
The lies we tell ourselves are a reflection of who we are, of what we want, and of where we come from. To deny a diversity of these myths about Canada is, in my eyes at least, against Canadian Values.