I’m currently reading Common Ground by Justin Trudeau (an autobiography. Here are five passages that have stood out to me so far.
“Too many Canadians emphasize their regional differences and forget the things that unite us. We are one people that speak two official languages and share a host of others. For all our differences of culture, history, and geography, we are bound together by shared values that define the Canadian identity. I have a deep-seated love and respect for Canada, and recognize that we have extraordinary potential” (5).
This quote was written in big, bold letters on the back of this book, so when I read these words for the second time (in the prologue) I realized they must be important. The thing that interests me most is how Trudeau mentions that as Canadians we are extremely different, yet “bound together by shared values”. We have been discussing this exact topic in socials since the beginning of the semester, and I’ve been trying to figure out if Canadians are united by a set of shared values, even though our country is made up of many religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, beliefs, etc. This confuses me: what values are connecting someone like myself—a teenager with fairly left/center political views—to someone on the far right of the spectrum? How can we determine what it really is that we all share?
This passage reveals that Canadian identity is fluid and undetermined at the moment, and it has been for a while. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it means to be Canadian, as we are such a large, diverse group.
“That’s when I understood that the real boss of Canada was the Canadian people” (14).
This statement is short, yet thought-provoking. It made me reflect on the fact that although the Government has power, it is ultimately up to the citizens to determine the future of Canada (we’re a democracy after all). This connects to our past discussions regarding Louis Riel. Some blamed him for “taking charge” and forcing his radical opinions onto others, even though he was elected to be a Métis leader. We often direct our anger towards those in power, while in some situations it’s the general public’s fault for voting for the person and/or law that they’re complaining about.
Although it is already common knowledge that Canada is a democracy, this passage further displays the undeniable fact that Canadians who are able to vote have a LOT of power. If more people educate themselves, formulate their own opinions, and participate in important activities such as voting, the voices of citizens will begin to be heard by the Government. It is up to us to do our part in order to improve the lives of millions of people across Canada.
“Canadians are no longer discriminated against in their workplaces because of their sexual orientation, nor are they prevented from marrying the person they love just because they happen to be of the same sex” (16).
Since I am a part of the LGBTQ+ community, this quote was one that stood out a lot for me. It’s truly mind-blowing how much this community has grown over the years, and I’m so lucky to be a part of it during a time when gay marriage is legal and we aren’t discriminated against to the same extent as before (people in the LGBTQ+ community are still oppressed, but the world is slowly progressing). Canada is a pretty safe place to be for LGBTQ+ people, it’s a place where we can fight the norms and love who we want to love.
Canada is widely known as a quite progressive country and although this is true, we still have a long ways to go. We were one of the first countries to legalize gay marriage, but the fact that it took so long for us to do so is disappointing. However, this quote is proof that (for the most part) Canadian’s have open minds and are willing to listen to the opinions of others, making adjustments in their lives wherever they are needed. When I go downtown, I see gay couples holding hands and store employees with pride pins on their shirts, and I almost always feel safe and accepted by the general public.
“Although Ottawa was less than a two-hour drive from Montreal, the culture gap between the two cities was closer in distance to a light year” (61).
Recently one of my closest friends moved to Calgary, and I found it surprising how different the trends and overall culture are, even though Calgary is very close to Vancouver. For example, in September her town was centimeters deep in snow, while we were hanging out at the beach.
Again, this quote touches on the diversity of Canada. There are many stereotypes in the media currently about Canadian identity; lot’s of people assume that the entire country/nation is the same, when in reality each province is extremely unique.
“The only real way to expand my understanding of the issues voters were facing was by asking them what concerned them, and listening carefully to their answers” (179).
I found it interesting how Trudeau’s strategy of talking to his voters is similar to the way I would talk to my friends, for example. I’ve been working hard to develop my listening skills for years, since it’s such an important skill to possess, and I can apply his statement to various situations in my own life, such as: supporting those around me who are dealing with mental illness, working together with my classmates during group projects, and when talking to people during everyday conversations. It’s important to empathize with those around us, and take the time to truly listen to what others have to say.
Recently, there have been world leaders in countries outside of Canada resorting to violence and threatening citizens in order to get their point across. Canada, however, has the reputation of being kind and empathetic, which is beneficial to our safety and perpetuates the idea that Canadians are genuinely good people.
An overall theme of this novel so far is: we must recognize and accept diversity, eliminate bias, and empathize with others in order to strive towards equality. Justin Trudeau talks a lot about minorities such as (but not limited to) immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community, and how it is important to treat others with respect no matter where they are from/how different their beliefs are from yours.