I’ve never really been a very patriotic person. Sure, I’ll stand and sing the national anthem, cheer for our team during the Olympics, and embrace the superficial elements of being Canadian, but I never felt an exceptional feeling of national pride. This changed over the past few weeks. I’ve come to understand the sense of national pride through viewing and experiencing how Canada comes together when faced with both accomplishment and tragedy.
Canada is often stereotyped as the “friendly” country. We say sorry, hold doors, and ask what you want from Tim Hortons when it’s time for a coffee run. And for the most part, this is true. But our unique sense of Canadian unity isn’t present as one of our stereotypes, and I think that it should be. We cheer for our sports teams with an unbridled sense of conviction while donning the blue and white, red and black, or whatever colour Toronto FC wears. I got to experience this unity through sport this past March when I got the chance to travel down to the States and follow our Toronto Maple Leafs while they played against Pittsburgh and Detroit. The crowds were stunning. In both cities, blue and white dominated the yellow and red of the opposing teams. In Detroit, I would argue that there were more Leafs fans in the stands than Red Wings fans. Says something about team spirit doesn’t it? With the Leafs in the playoffs right now, the city (for the most part) is cheering them on. We’re faced with the possibility of accomplishment, and we’ve recognized this. So in a way purely Canadian (other than that time where Iceland ended up sending like half their country to a football game), we’ve come together to celebrate and cheer on our team.
The ability for our country and its cities to be so united doesn’t stop at just our sports teams. It also can be found in the face of challenge, when we stand up and identify that yes, we are Canadians, and we won’t let this get the better of us. More and more it seems like the world has forgotten this. South of the border, we’ve seen national tragedy take the front page more often than we would like. The response to these events is, for the most part, the same. We change our Facebook profiles, send “thoughts and prayers”, and U.S government leaders send sappy tweets followed by the pointing of fingers. Nothing actually happens, and it seems that the actual events and the victims are forgotten while political power plays dominate the headlines.
If Monday’s events are any indication, Canada is the opposite. Moments after the attack, in the house of Commons, opposition leader Andrew Scheer and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the horrible events in Toronto with the equal feelings of lament. There was no attempt to use it for political gain (other than minor tweets from questionable sources) and the focus of the tragedy wasn’t taken off the victims or the events by power-hungry politicians.
We’re able to put aside our differences to address both accomplishments, failures, and tragedies. It’s what makes being a Canadian so great, and realizing this, I’m proud to wear the maple leaf.