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Lifeline Sudbury Blog

What it Means to be Canadian

 What it Means to be Canadian

As Canada Day approaches, I am reminded of what it means to be Canadian.

I reflect on my deep French Canadian roots. Our family’s earliest Canadian ancestor, Antoine Courtemanche, arrived in Mont Royal in 1659. The CP Rail brought my grandparents to Northern Ontario. They settled in Sultan and eventually moved to the Flour Mill where my grandfather worked in the CN rail yard.

I remember my mother’s Irish forefathers who arrived in the Ottawa valley and settled in Shamrock, Ontario. And in the old St. Patrick’s cemetery, lays my great grandmother who died giving birth to my grandpa Frank. He worked at the Copper Cliff smelter for most of his life. Mick Lowe’s powerful book, The Insatiable Maw, changed my understanding of his plight forever.

I grew up in the West End of Sudbury. Many of my friends were of Italian descent. Warm summer nights were serenaded by the sounds of grown-ups chatting in their backyards as they worked their bountiful gardens. Nonna’s could often be seen going into the deli trucks that wandered through our neighbourhoods. Empty wooden grape crates promised flowing home-made wine in the coming year.

Today, I think of the wonderful Multicultural Canada Celebration down at the old barn. I am in awe of Laurentian University’s new Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre as it rises from the ground. It honours our Indigenous people and embraces our role in the reconciliation process. I see the Bridge of Nations, the brainchild of Ursula Sauve and Dan Lee, and am reminded of how Sudbury’s overt pluralism flies in the face of Marshall McLuhan’s statement that “Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity.”

So what does it mean to be Canadian? In my opinion, it means freedom and diversity. We define our shared values in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are a labyrinth of cultures and traditions being imported into an ever-evolving society. Our identity is inclusive.

In the last year we have come together in response to the Syrian refugee crisis in such a profound and heartfelt way. Thousands of volunteers and donors have contributed to the efforts of many local sponsoring groups. In turn these groups have come together to form Lifeline Sudbury- a humanitarian umbrella group working together to welcome refugee families from any country, ethnicity or faith to start a new life in our community just as many of our ancestors did for more than a century.

Happy Canada Day everyone! And welcome.

Dave Courtemanche
Chair of Lifeline Sudbury