This has always been a troublesome topic. It’s been a question for virtually the last 149 years: What is a Canadian? How do we define ourselves? To use a tired, old joke; we know we’re not American.
The obvious answer to this question lies in the Charter of Rights & Freedoms. It has set up this country as a compassionate, open, and free society. It guarantees us freedoms, and protects us when those freedoms are abused. The Charter has made this country a beacon to immigrants, and refugees that it is.
The openness sets up a paradox. It means people bring their traditional cultures, and values here and are free to practice them, even when we might not like them. The burqa makes a lot of women shiver in disgust at what it symbolizes in terms of its religious and cultural implications . But we can’t ban it, because women are free to make their own choices in Canada. Even if we don’t understand them.
It creates a problem for Conservative Leadership candidate Kellie Leitch. They’re talking about a “values test” for new Canadians. When you have a society built on such openness, freedom, and diversity how can start testing for values?
On one hand you can’t. The rights, and freedoms guaranteed under the Charter means people are going to come here with customs we don’t understand or agree with. That is taking this idea of openness its logical conclusion.
On the other hand we shouldn’t be afraid to at least have that discussion of what Canadian values are. The Charter is at the core. It’s the base for the free and just society and nobody argues that. But beyond that?? There’s the mystery.