Last year, I wrote a Medium post which was inspired by an experience that made me question the relationship between Toronto and Canada’s national identity. From this, a larger conversation began between Payam Shalchian and I.
From distinctly different vantage points and life experiences, we were curious to see how the historic notions of being Canadian were holding up today. We observed a few challenges but most importantly some opportunities that can help us to at the least frame a healthy conversation around the Canadian ways (emphasis on the plural) of thinking, living and doing.
– The Exploration –
‘Who are we?’ and ‘What is the ‘Canadian Way’?’
Canadians, like many, are suffering from the effects of short-termism, making something very broad, all encompassing and collective, like a national identity, feel more abstract than tangible (Re: A Mari Usque Ad Mare: The Canadian “Way”).
We feel very few media outlets are communicating the stories about Canadians that are born from the same values and characteristics of a culture that brought the world innovative policies, programs and products in everything from health care and diplomacy to finance and telecommunications. On top of this, we are continually marketed to with dated commercial icons that are representative of an irrelevant ‘national’ identity and are also bombarded with the narrative of an ever polarizing political landscape. This is exemplified by a lack of collaboration at the highest levels of office.
When you stop and think, a lot of the stories we are being told do not sound very Canadian, do they? And all of this without mention to the countless stories and images we hear and see daily about challenges facing our citizens and residents across society.
It is important to ensure we create a powerful self-narrative for ourselves. But what happens when this does not scale and millions begin to question or doubt what it means to be Canadian?
Quite frankly, we are tired of all the doom and gloom out there. There is a disconnect in what is being communicated and with who we believe we truly are and capable of.
We feel that the DNA within our culture that has given rise to so much we are historically proud of can be reawakened for what we are beginning to call a ‘new north’.
A ‘new north’ is about reconnecting with the fundamental values that created this unique place: diversity, inclusivity, openness and tolerance. Yes, it appears there are many ways to say Canadian.
Paraphrasing from that previous Medium post:
(Canada’s)… original motto, ‘A Mari Usque Ad Mare’, or, ‘from sea to sea’ is brilliant. I get the sense that everything that is contained within this land, is welcomed, explored or overcome. But what next? Is this motto what is propelling us forward? Do we need new symbols? Or a strategic direction? If so, who is responsible for it and how does it bridge the increasingly divisive context we find ourselves in?
This initiative is an invitation to us all in response to these queries and to make the national identity more tangible than abstract. We are creating a platform to effect change via the true ‘Canadian Way’ and give rise to a renewed appreciation for who we truly are.
Nouveau North will probe, facilitate, create and lead in the direction we ought to be moving.
Photocredit: Lauren Van Gijn, www.vangijnvisions.com