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What does it mean to be English Canadian?


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While there is still no definable culture within Canada that is British based, the theme of this thread was about English-Canadians, not Canadians in general.

However, of the lists provided that make one feel proud or a Canadian the majority of cultural items are sub-culture icons and do not apply specifically of English-Canadians. Many more are not cultural items but mere ~things~ that most countries have or do unrelated to culture.

If we want to try to define ourselves according to our subcultures then we have to accept the fact that we are in fact a Metis culture at our root, embracing French Canadian, Native Canadian and British Canadian icons as our own wholly. We cannot separate English-Canadian as be distinct since there are not cultural attachments to that identifier. We do know that the English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish cultures contributed to the root culture that people experimented with in the 17th through 19th centuries in Canada, before the Victorian myths dominated early Canadian society. However, none of these subcultures would have survived in the wilderness Canada without the knowledge and cultural perspectives of the First Nations people that took them into new territories, or the French that hacked out new trails and explored the lakes and rivers with their native friends. Out of necessity those early Britians and Parisians had to adopt the aboriginal culture, living on and with the land to survive. And when something becomes a daily occurrence, the languages adapts to reflect it, and culture is born.

The Metis is a prime example since we know that it was derived from French and Native, Scottish and Native cultures, the Metis have a language all their own. And in true form the recognition that we are a distinct Metis-aboriginal culture is in our language. Neither our English nor our French mimic the British or the French. For the most part it even differs from the Americans in subtle but distinct ways. Canadian is a dialect of the other languages that has resulted in a culture that ~could be~ considered our own....providing that we stop playing fantasy that we are descendants British culture alone and embrace the three solitudes of aboriginal, French and British as a hybrid culture that is our own. Is it any wonder that most of the names of our streets, cities, rivers and lakes come from aboriginal languages? We have integrated their languages into our and we think nothing of blaming "Ottawa" or boasting we are "Canadian". We have also integrated their form of government - particularily the Iroquois Confederacy with its older Brothers the Mohawk and the Seneca sitting across the house (the longhouse is considered their political centre) from the younger Brothers,m the Onieda and the Cayuga, while the head of the Onondaga controls the house decorum as the Firekeeper (or speaker of the House). Lastly no decision of the house can be accepted until it has passed through the approval of the Onondaga Royaner, who then return it to the house modified, or with their approval. There are many similarities however, there are remnants of the British aristocracies built into our system that do not appear in theirs. In particular they have consensus that their democracy depends on while we rely on the elected majority to rule with an iron fist. During times of minority governments we operate more like the Confederacy than most are willing to admit.

Our clothing also somewhat reflects our enjoined cultural evolution. While we are influenced globally by clothing trends we can look at certain articles and see how we have adapted ourselves to the three roots. Snowshoes, beaver fur hats (with earflaps), mittens, parkas, moccasin slippers are items that touch almost every family in Canada in one way or the other. There are hundreds if not thousands more things that may be found in limited quantities throughout the world, in Canada they are everyday items that we don't think about. We also have food and drink, and kitchen utensils that are derived not only from our root cultures but that have been invented since our culture evolved. Poutine, beaver tails, and fry bread come to mind......

The beer commercial says "I am Canadian!" but that is only to mean "I'm NOT American". We cannot define ourselves culturally by asserting who we are not. If we really want to be Canadian then we have to get rid of the myths that we are British culture to mean "not French" or "not native" culture. We have to accept the fact that this country was occupied, hack out and urbanized by all of us and that includes the immigrants from other countries that populated various regions and created their own enclaves of culture. We have to stop ignoring our aboriginal Metis roots and start accepting that our language, clothing, utilities and government are heavily influenced by all of us. We can;t even be American because they took the step of severing their ties with their British French, and Dutch culture and instead embraced a whole new one that incorporated aboriginal culture combined with the English, French and Dutch to create a New England or western cowboy culture, or Creole culture that is distinctly American. And as mono-generic we Canadians accused the Americans of being, at least they are not afraid to admit where the roots of their culture comes from. Canadians on the other hand still believe in the imagery of Queen Victoria with her lace and gingerbread houses as being the basis for Canadian content. It couldn't be further from the truth.

Edited by charter.rights
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A lot of you are completely missing the point. French Canada is more than just a culture, it is a national identity with much more to it than just culture. They are further defined by language, geographical density, and recognition as distinct by themselves and others. You're trying to define English Canada in cultural terms and it just doesn't work that way. English Canada is NOT an ethnic nation the way French Canada is, so defining English Canadian or general Canadian culture just doesn't cut it. What English Canadians identify with is the civic national identity forged by Trudeau. We recognize our federal government as bilingual, schools across Canada teach both French and English, multiculturalism is respected, we have a set of rights and freedoms that we all believe in. This is the civic nation that is not defined in cultural and linguistic terms the way the French Canada ethnic nation is defined. Trying to identify "Canadian" culture in ethnic terms is pointless.

Edited by cybercoma
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A lot of you are completely missing the point. French Canada is more than just a culture, it is a national identity with much more to it than just culture. They are further defined by language, geographical density, and recognition as distinct by themselves and others. You're trying to define English Canada in cultural terms and it just doesn't work that way. English Canada is NOT an ethnic nation the way French Canada is, so defining English Canadian or general Canadian culture just doesn't cut it. What English Canadians identify with is the civic national identity forged by Trudeau. We recognize our federal government as bilingual, schools across Canada teach both French and English, multiculturalism is respected, we have a set of rights and freedoms that we all believe in. This is the civic nation that is not defined in cultural and linguistic terms the way the French Canada ethnic nation is defined. Trying to identify "Canadian" culture in ethnic terms is pointless.

French Canada is rejecting inclusion in Canada on the same basis as most natives do. English Canada excludes them in defining what Canada really is. Trudeau's various multicultural initiatives were intended to legally do what voluntary enjoining failed. However, if English Canada can accept that the Quebec with all its sub-culture and language differences is really part of the whole notion of Canada, I believe we have a greater chance at defining ourselves culturally then we do with a culture-less mythical English-only Canada can. The same goes for aboriginals. Many refuse to call themselves Canadian (and many may have a legal argument to back it up)because there is nothing in it for them....not monetary terms... in cultural terms. We hold aboriginals as worthless segments of our society that we want to ignore and eventually absorb so there is nothing distinctive left. Yet those kinds of attitudes are deluded such that we are already aboriginal in culture and that to rid ourselves of the aboriginal component is to commit cultural suicide. Our worldview depends on both the aboriginal and Quebec ideologies that our only hope at survival would be to surrender to the US as another state.

On the other hand Trudeau did not just create a civic identify but a viable bilingual cultural one which could be called Outaouais culture. These civic policies so changed the language and the culture in the Ottawa Region that a new hybrid culture evolved from it and now is pretty much distinct to the Ottawa-Hull Region. And as Outaouais people moved further into the Gateneaus and they took their culture with them. A visit to that area will encounter people who are very much Canadian in the broad Canadian sense (from all ethnic backgrounds) but they also have their very own distinct cultural habits and traditions, from Tortierre at midnight on Christmas Eve to eating beaver tails while skating to work on the canal. These are real examples ot cultural change that may have originated in a deliberate alteration of the civic landscape but was adopted by people to form the basis of who they are....not Quebecois, not British and not native but Outaouais.

Essentially that is how culture evolves. First there are changes to practices demanded as a result of environment, or social structure. Then languages change to support the environment and traditions develop that make living in the environment easier, all evolving to distinct culture.

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...we have to accept the fact that we are in fact a Metis culture at our root, embracing French Canadian, Native Canadian and British Canadian icons as our own wholly... Canadians on the other hand still believe in the imagery of Queen Victoria with her lace and gingerbread houses as being the basis for Canadian content. It couldn't be further from the truth.

Care to clarify the contradiction therein?

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There is no contradiction. What Canadians believe and what we are culturally are two different things.

Ooohhh... I see now what you're trying to get at: you didn't contradict yourself - and I apologise for my error in thinking you did - you're stating that British-based culture forms a part of Canadian culture, but it takes a back seat to Native culture in terms of prevelance in our modern society, even though everyone apparantly thinks the exact opposite. Riiiight... :rolleyes: Well, if nothing else, you're at least consistent...

[stricken and re-written]

Edited by g_bambino
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Ooohhh... I see now what you're trying to get at: you didn't contradict yourself - and I apologise for my error in thinking you did - you're stating that British-based culture forms a part of Canadian culture, but it takes a back seat to Native culture in terms of prevelance in our modern society, even though everyone apparantly thinks the exact opposite. Riiiight... :rolleyes: Well, if nothing else, you're at least consistent...

[stricken and re-written]

Not at all. You must have skipped over my explanation and instead focus ona one sentence that caught your attention.

Canadian culture, if we are to accept that premise has a Metis-aboriginal root. That means that it was not the British culture alone (as many here try to assert) that makes up all of Canadian culture, but a blend of British-Aboriginal, French-Aboriginal and in some case like Outouias culture a mix of French-British cultural roots. Canadian culture points to these blended roots to the chagrin of English-Canadians who think that Canadian culture emulated the Queen Victorian icons that some painted on their faces in the 19th century. We are as detached from British culture and maybe more so than the Americans are. Yet we may have started out combining British and French colonial practices with our aboriginals ideologies, like the Metis evolved from those roots, Metis culture is none of French, British colonial or aboriginal, but a culture uniquely its own.

Edited by charter.rights
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not the British culture alone (as many here try to assert) that makes up all of Canadian culture, but a blend of British-Aboriginal, French-Aboriginal and in some case like Outouias culture a mix of French-British cultural roots.

Of course it is....that doesn't make it metis culture. There's a reason that Canada is said to have a cultural Mosaic. And as much as you don't like it, our British heritage is a part (a very large part) of that culture.

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Of course it is....that doesn't make it metis culture. There's a reason that Canada is said to have a cultural Mosaic. And as much as you don't like it, our British heritage is a part (a very large part) of that culture.

No that is a myth. There is little that resembles the British culture....and in fact the British being conquered people have little culture to begin with. Moreover we are talking about Scottish, Irish and Welsh cultures that were imported here.

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No that is a myth. There is little that resembles the British culture.

There is little that resembles any particular culture. That's why its called a mosaic. This 'myth' isn't that at all. Canadian culture(s) is unique, but it is assembled from many parts, and a large part of that is due to roots coming from, if not Britain, the United Kingdom.

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Not at all.

Canadian culture points to these blended roots to the chagrin of English-Canadians who think that Canadian culture emulated the Queen Victorian icons that some painted on their faces in the 19th century.

Now you are contradicting yourself: you say you haven't said something, but then go on to say the very thing you said you didn't.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Nope. Unlike those links you provide to back up your crap, this ain't in anyone's imagination.
Some posters make little sense. Though you and I often disagree your posts make sense.
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Quebecers seem to suffer a collective lack of self-confidence and expect other to salve their easily wounded egos.
Huh?
Most Quebecers want to be Canadians. Recent pools put separation at under 40% support. Before the sponsorship scandal, support was down to 25%. Its realistic to assume that those numbers will return. Most Quebecers consider themselves to be a part of Canada. They simply see it in a different way.
Do most Quebecers want to be English Canadians?

What is an English Canadian?

Most Quebecers are content being Quebecios. They don't want to be Canadian is it means having to compromise their language and culture. That is what creates the solitude.
On the contrary. Many Quebecers want to be Canadians - but they don't want to be English Canadians.
English Canadians have every opportunity anywhere in Canada but like Americans in their hate relationship in Europe, they aren't very well welcomed in Quebec, or in francophone communities outside of Quebec.
I admire your admission that when Americans travel to Europe, they are in a foreign country.

Is Canada a country?

No, August, that was not exactly your question. Maybe it's a question of semantics, but you actually asked

What is an (English) Canadian?

Which is what everyone has clearly focused on, for the most part, looking for a dictionary definition.

What exactly are you looking for? A list of common traits, beliefs, loves and hates, hopes and dreams, cultural values which hold us together?

What is a French Canadian? A Canadian who's French. Care to expand upon that?

The debate here seems to be mostly about what is a "Canadian" without understanding that English Canada is a specific space. French Canada has a distinct definition. It is Quebec, and Acadia.
Multiculturalism and bilingualism doesn't make us unique.
These are references to Canada, not English-Canada.

My OP asked about English Canada.

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Unique? What is unique about being a Frenchman or a Spaniard? There is nothing unique in the world. There is merely the shared cultural traditions passed down from our forefathers. Again, it's true that succesive federal governments have been determined to erase all of these, and done a good job of it. Very few younger Canadians, even those born and raised here, have any connection or feelings with or about those who built and shaped this country. Most don't even know anything about Canada's history - because liberals and socialists thought that immigrants wouldn't be comfortable hearing about such things. We teach African history to black students. THAT'S okay. But we don't teach much about Canada's history or traditions. So people like you shrug and say Canada is nothing but a shopping mall, with nothing special about anyone who lives here.
Argus, I am no nationalist but I have to agree with you.

What should any society teach its children? What is English-Canada? Is there any point in passing it on to children?

Some things about me which make me feel Canadian (but not necessarily unique to Canada)

In no particular order

Xmas Eve Tortierre

Toques

Beer

Winter

Summer

Anglais

French

John Allan Cameron

Hockey

Sandy MacIntyre

The Laurentians in spring, summer and fall

Morin Heights

Mount Royal

Smoked Meat

Montreal Bagels

Black Watch (RHR)

Globe and Mail

King of Kensington

Razzle Dazzle

Johnny Jelly Bean

Montreal Jazz Festival

Just for laughs

Taste of the Danforth

Mary Margaret O'hara

Marcus O'Hara

Italian-Jewish Weddings

Carribean-Jewish Weddings

Jewish Weddings

Irish-Greek Weddings

Gay Weddings

Rhino Party

Bread Pudding

TVO Fridays

Rye

Vinegar on fries

The Ex

The FN C1

....and 1000s more

MDancer, would you lose your house or car for any one of these? For all of them?

Is this why over one hundred Canadians died in Afghanistan?

MDancer, you are an amusing English-speaking dilettante - like your list. English Canada is surely more than this.

Jeez... ;) our Queen's face is only on every coin in our pockets (except those few stray Yank ones!), on all those $20s, her coat of arms is on every $ bill; there's probably a crown on your local police force's badge, or your military badge - should you be a member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, or the Royal Canadian (Air, Army, or Sea) Cadets, or are one of those officers who've received Her Majesty's Commission; there's the Courts of Queen's Bench, Queen's Counsel, the Queen in the Oath of Citizenship, the Queen Elizabeth Way and the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, the Place Reine Elisabeth, the Queen Elizabeth Bulding at the CNE; the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, the Royal Military College and the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Royal 22e Régiment (the Vandoos); etc., etc., etc., etc... We may have inherited the institution from another country, and now share it with other countries, but we've had it for 500 years, and, within our borders, we've made it uniquely ours.

I also find that there's something about vast, unpopulated landscapes that's very Canadian: tundra, Canadian Shield, the Rockies, the Labrador coast, the prairies. I know countries like Russia, Australia, and maybe Brazil have a similar low person to km2 ratio, but, I can say that in Australia, the landscapes are vast, but look much, much different, and I imagine its the same for Brazil. I don't know about Russia, though.

Bambino, it's not the Queen. But like Argus' post, I have to agree with you.

Place Reine Elisabeth? L'Hôtel Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, perhaps.

-----

What is English Canada? What does it mean to be English Canadian?

Edited by August1991
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Perhaps it's enough to say that an English Canadian is a Canadian that primarily speaks English, while a French Canadian is a Canadian that primarily speaks French.

Canada hasn't changed geographically since 1949, and one could argue that there are those both Newfoundland and the ROC that would say that it didn't change then (but that's another thread).

Canadians can be defined in many ways: by region, by religious preference, by place of birth, by political preference and of course, by language.

Perhaps we have to take on faith that we are Canadian, and that being Canadian is something worthy of being and something to be proud of, no matter what language we speak.

I don't know....I think I'm babbling.

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Whereas French-Canadians have a deep shared cultural and, more importantly, a deep genealogical history, they can define what it means to be French. There is a certain homogeneity to French-Canada that English-Canada does not have. English-Canadians are mutts, and I mean that in the least disrespectful way possible. English-Canadians have bought into civic-nationalism and identify with the nation-state as being English-Canada. So, when you ask what it is to be English-Canadian and someone responds with items of civic-national identity, you cannot simply discount those things as being "Canadian" and not English-Canadian.

Unless you're specifically referring to English-Canadians that have settled from England, I believe you're mistakenly trying to figure out the cultural identity of Canadian anglophones. Francophones may belong to a French-Canadian identity and culture that can be traced genealogically, but anglophones do not inevitably belong to a homogeneous English-Canadian identity. Your question, therefore, does not have an answer, insofar as English-Canada incorporates all anglophone Canadians.

Edited by cybercoma
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Johnny-come-lately to this thread but...

I see Canada as the SET, and French Canada as one of many subsets... and 'English' Canada as pretty much mythical, a handy term used almost exclusively by French Canada to mean 'not us'.

The question of finding the common thread that applies to the set, excluding a single subset, is ... well ... sort of dumb.

It presupposes a duality that really doesn't exist for anyone outside that single subset.

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"English" Canada exists, but only so far as settlers from England are concerned. Anglophone Canada is not the same as English Canada the way francophone Canada is French-Canada.

Even then that as not as true as it once was. The neighbourhood in Montreal that I grew up in has a large native french language population, but most are the childen of immigrants from Lebanon, Haiti, Morrocco etc etc...they are as pur laine as polyester. They are indeed francophones but not Canadien Francias as Henri Bourassa or Duplessis might have imagined it.

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So perhaps I should try different phrasing then, Cybercoma.

Trying to define what it means to be 'English Canadian' (in the manner that it is intended- 'not-French Canadian') makes about as much sense as trying to define 'non-Romanian Canadian', or 'non-German Canadian'.

Unless you are supposing a non-existent duality, the question should only be presented to those who specifically lack the 'non' to have any real meaning at all...... and to anyone else (as in'virtually everyone supposedly defined and indicated by that descriptor'), it lands some place between foolish and meaningless.

Edited by Molly
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