Colten Wong

Being a Canadian is much more complex than it appears.

The world portrays Canadians to be multicultural, liberal and a democratic peaceful nation. The media portrays every resident to be a proud Canadian. Yet when citizens of Canada are asked to discuss about what Canada is about, the word “multiculturalism”, is often used. Really? Do Canadians really know what that means? Typically these people would state their ancestral ethnicity and culture first… without implying to being a Canadian (i.e. “I am Chinese or Taiwanese versus identifying themselves as “A proud Canadian”).

So what defines a Canadian?

Is it simply owning a written document certifying citizenship, or one who declare themselves a “Canadian” in public. Is there more to being a Canadian?

Yes.

To be a proud Canadian one must participate and engage in community activities; important activities such as, selecting our representatives for good governance and leadership, exercising and recognizing the freedoms and rights earned by our predecessors.

Since my ancestors arrived in 1881, I have seen myself and my entire family to be proud Canadians.

Although my ancestors were never provided any opportunity to be considered as Canadians, I believe they should be honoured as Canadians. Our pioneer predecessors made possible, the rights and freedoms that all Canadians enjoy today.

Among the first people out of China, my ancestors abandoned all that they knew, for dream of a better future not only for themselves but also for their descendants. After they first arrived, to this unknown world, they were greeted with unspeakable prejudice from not only the local people but even from the administrating governments. The Government of Canada implemented the Chinese Head Tax, in which any immigrant of Chinese ethnicity entering Canada, had to pay a huge sum in order to set foot on this land. This “tax” was not moderate either; it is equivalent to purchasing a modern home in a luxurious neighborhood.  However my ancestors managed to endure all these hardships and managed to forge the nation that we know today as Canada.

In 1923, the Government of Canada implemented the Chinese Immigration Act, which prevented any Chinese immigrating into Canada. Only the Chinese were singled out to be fully prohibited. Those who were already admitted into Canada faced even greater isolation and humiliation, which lasted approximately twenty-four years creating immense hardship.

So what had caused the government to repeal the Act? It was not so much that the government felt pity for early Chinese pioneers but rather those pioneers proved themselves worthy for acknowledgement and respect. Our ancestors not only shed blood and tears in the construction of the C.P.R. (Canadian Pacific Railway) but also fighting as unaccepted Canadians during World War II.

This is the appropriate definition of a true Canadian. A true Canadian would always show the utmost best appearance of and for Canada. We all know that leadership is temporary – especially poor leadership. The example of our ancestors’ endurance of decades of prejudice, gave way to help build and shape the Canadian community we know today – it was through their perseverance and sacrifices.

Before I summarize my work, I wish to share a treasured thought from my great- grandmother “I’ll be damned the day that I do not exercise the right to vote because our boys worked too damn hard to earn it. I do not care who I vote for, so long as I vote”. Up until her last breath, my great grandmother kept to her word and insisted that we never forget and to always be appreciative of the rights gained by our ancestors.

Building on the foundation set by my forebears, I will continue to keep their memories and goals alive. And with help of other proud Canadians, we will continue to build Canada to be an even better place to live in.

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