What is Canadian culture? Nobody seems to know

What is Canadian culture? Nobody seems to know

A well-known stereotype among North American youths is that Canadians are constantly apologizing. There are many other stereotypes surrounding Canadians, such as living in the freezing cold and producing mass amounts of maple syrup.

Outside of Canada, people have an image of what is quintessentially Canadian. Despite this, inside Canada, most youth cannot explain what it means to be Canadian. This can be observed in most Canadian millennials, the exception being with those from Quebec.

It’s important to look at Canada in a more socio-geographical sense to understand why Canadian youth feel the way they do. Canada, being the second largest country, has an area of 9.985 million square kilometers. The most western parts of Canada have only been part of Canada for just over 100 years. Of all the G8 countries, Canada has the highest population of foreign-born citizens, with one in five Canadian citizens being immigrants.

In short, Canada is very big, very young and very culturally diverse.

In contrast to the rest of Canada, there is the province of Quebec. Quebec is the largest of all Canadian provinces. More importantly however, it is the eldest. Having originally been founded in 1608, it has a very rich history compared to the rest of the country. Historically, Quebec has been French and is has very European influence. Due to this history they are very established in their language and customs. The majority of Quebec residents’ heritage is Quebecois, and their ancestors were born in early Canada and descend from the early French settlers.

Quebec has also faced much adversity from England, and were Quebec was taken over by the English in 1759. In simple terms they got here first, they were beaten by the English and they still have not got over it. Residents of Quebec are very patriotic and defend their province, its language and its culture.

A student at a Quebec university writing her thesis on culture says, “I would be able to define Quebec culture and not the culture of English Canadians”. When asked why she felt that way she described how “The French Canadians are always having to defend their language and history also played a large role.” She also touched on an interesting topic, “English culture was threatening to Quebec culture, not helping their cause by being a such a fundamentally multicultural nation.” In this she is underlining a point that is crucial in understanding Canadian culture. There is a possibility that in an effort to maintain a truly French Canadian culture in Quebec they were less supportive of the cultural diversity movements of the country.

Research does support the above-mentioned belief. There are two main ideologies within Canada regarding cultural diversity. The first philosophy would be the enriching of a society through cultural diversity and the sharing of core values. The second philosophy, that can be observed in Quebec, is the allowance of cultural diversity, with the enriching of the French Canadian culture at the core of the philosophy. These two philosophies created by two separate Canadian politicians molded Canada in its multiculturalism.

Canadian youth have such a difficult time putting their finger on one specific culture because in Canada there is a cultural mosaic. The mosaic is based on our belief that Canada as a whole becomes stronger by having immigrants bring with them their cultural diversity for all Canadians to learn from. Canadians have a culture based on learning from others and modeling those functional practices from other countries.

Returning to what apparently contributed to Canada lacking a tangible culture are what actually make Canada the way it is. Canada can be so incredibly diverse due to its size. If Canada was not such a young country, it never would have the chance to learn from all the already developed nations. What really defines Canadians is their multiculturalism and their cultural mosaic.

To summarize, Canadian culture is split in two, the French and English Canadians. Both cultures have different philosophies, both of which are noble and good. They have different motivations and different degrees of patriotism for Canada. What has affected Canada and allowed for this divide is Canada’s geography and history.

What can Canadian youth do to spread this idea and better understand their Canadian identity? Having a good knowledge of Canadian history is key to understanding Canada. It is also critical to be aware of more contemporary Canadian history understanding the different influxes of immigrants at different times, which contributed to Canada being the beautiful country it is today.

Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV

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