On Friday, November 7th, I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony at the elementary school where I live. I wore my ceremonial dress, as requested, and joined a couple of veterans who were also in attendance. During the singing of “O Canada”, for the first time in my life, I felt really conflicted. After 30+ years as a law enforcement officer in Canada, during the singing of our national anthem, it started to really hit home that the current Canadian government does not consider me to be a Canadian.
On Sunday, November 9th, the church I attend invited the veterans from the community and honoured them. Once again, as we sang “O Canada”, a series of unexpected emotions surged through me. I am 55+ years old and have spent over half of my life serving my country, only to find out that my government does not consider me to be a Canadian, but has rubber-stamped the US designation of me as a US person who just happens to be living in Canada.
I grew up on Campobello Island. When it was time for me to be born, my “pure” Canadian parents crossed the border to the nearest medical facility in Lubec, Maine where I was born. After spending a couple of days there, we returned home to Campobello. During my teen years, sports teams I played on often competed against American teams from Lubec, East Machias, Eastport, Machias and sometimes Calais. These games often took on special significance because, on our own small scale, we were representing our country. When in the US, if we spoke of Campobello, we would always refer to it as “over home” to the point that some of our closest American friends referred to us as “ovah homahs” (over homers).
I spent 4-5 summers while I attended university working at Roosevelt Campobello International Park. The park’s motto is, “A Legacy of Friendship”. To quote from the park’s website, “Roosevelt Campobello International Park is a singular example of international cooperation – jointly administered staffed and funded by the peoples of Canada and the United States.” Canadians and Americans worked side by side at this park commemorating an American president but located on Canadian soil (Roosevelt’s “beloved island”) – the Canadians got paid in Canadian money and the Americans got paid in American money. We were all the same, except they were Americans and we were Canadians (ovah homahs!). No one really differentiated much, except on the sports field – there we competed fiercely to do our respective countries proud!
I have never questioned my “Canadian-ness” and still don’t. Yet, the last two times I have sung our national anthem, I have felt strangely conflicted. I have been thinking about the fact that the Harper conservatives do NOT consider me to be a Canadian, as clearly stated by their spokesman Gerald Keddy when he made it clear that the government position is that I am a US person residing in Canada. I thought about all the comments I have read from people who consider themselves “pure” Canadians, who basically scorn my situation so much that they support giving away Canadian sovereignty to the IRS just to punish me. These people seem to have such disdain for people with some possible clinging US connection that they celebrate allowing the CRA to become a foreign office of the IRS.
Tomorrow, I will once again don my ceremonial uniform to commemorate Remembrance Day and honour those brave men and women who have paid with their lives to protect the freedoms we enjoy. I will once again proudly sing “O Canada” and undoubtedly struggle with the fact that our government has capitulated and sacrificed a portion of the population who are not “pure” enough because the US has deemed this to be the case.
But as I remember the brave men and women who paid the ultimate price to make me free, I will also remember that, if there is a hierarchy of “how Canadian” we are, it is not based on how “pure” we are. If there are “degrees” of Canadian-ness, those who are “most Canadian” are not necessarily those who are most “pure”, but those who are willing to take a stand to protect Canada from foreign governments infringing on Canadian sovereignty. By this standard, our current government and those commenters who are supportive of its actions regarding the FATCA IGA hidden in omnibus Bill C31 are “not very Canadian”.
If there actually are now degrees of Canadian-ness, to me those who are “most” Canadian are those who are going above and beyond the call of duty to force back the IRS barbarians at the gate that the Canadian government left open for them. Most (if not all) of them are not “pure”, but have some US taint and include (in alphabetical order): Gwen Deegan, Peter Dunn, Ginny Hillis, Stephen Kish, Tricia Moon, John Richardson, Lynne Swanson and Carol Tapanila (and others – those I have overlooked, please forgive me). Also included are the many who work tirelessly behind the scenes, most of whom I know only by the nicknames they post. They moderate and administer websites, post ads and articles and battle it out in the Comments sections following FATCA stories. Inch by inch, these warriors are gaining the upper hand in the battle for public opinion and educating those “pure” Canadians who seem only too eager to relinquish Canadian sovereignty to the US.
Tomorrow, I will do my best to focus exclusively on those brave men and women who gave their lives to protect our freedoms. But I know, during the national anthem, when those conflicted feelings again start to arise within me, I will also think about those who are continuing to fight for our freedoms. I hope I can eventually put those conflicting feelings behind me, knowing that the problem is not with me but with my government.
This post is not meant to in any way trivialize Remembrance Day and the sacrifices of our veterans. We cannot control the thoughts and emotions that confront us, and writing this was therapeutic as I struggle to come to terms with being a second class Canadian.