Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Canadians' DNA

Previously unknown to me,
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid...defined as a nucleic acid that contains the genetic code.
Figuratively, basic nature or qualities; one's makeup, constitution, essence, etc.

Dr. Dave Davis, a Dundas resident... retired physician, writer and speaker,
asks in a recent article,“What Makes Us Canadians?” and states,
We are bound together by common threads: Politeness. Diversity. Respect.”
(The following are excerpts from his writing)

It was a young woman who made me start asking the question, 'What makes a Canadian?' She and her daughters were visitors to a place in the North End. Standing in the doorway, her hands in the pockets of one of those puffy quilted coats...gray coloured. Thinking Thailand or Vietnam, I asked, 'Where are you from?' 'Locke Street,' she replied (or something close to it). After I rephrased the qusestion, she told me her country origin ~ South China as it turned out. Later on the drive back home, coffee in hand, I reflected on the woman's response, thinking...What makes us Canadian?

There are countless stories like this: A Canadian conversation between two guys at the grocery store, complaining about the Leafs, the national of their turbans was a bright blue. Syrian women joining a cooking class downtown Hamilton, learning to prepare 'Canadian' and their own recipes with local produce, creating a sort of Arab-Canadian fusion. There is strength in diversity. This is Canada, home of newcomers and original peoples...of bilingualism and beavers...of loonies and liberal policies (small L of course)...of multiculturalism and multiple complaints about our favourite sports teams...the home of immigrants, my parents for one, my wife's parents for another.

For the last several weeks, I've been asking people what they thought our distinguishing national traits are. The common answer, no surpirse, was politeness...a national feature if there ever was one. And once in U.S. where I think I don't have an accent, someone will say, 'You're a Canadian, aren't you?' Why? I say PRAWcess like a U.S. native, swallow those 'eh's', don't wear my Jays T-shirt. I am totally incognito, the invisible Canadian, but I still get spotted. Maybe it's in subtle things, like compromise. Figuring out what the other person thinks or feels. Respecting the other guy. Holding the door open to the 7-11 for the mother with her three young kids.

Unlike the nations of the yesterday, where people found common ties in their appearance...the fair freckled skin of the Scot, the broad serene face of the Finn...we are a nation of tomorrow, a fabric bound together by common threads. Politeness for one. Diversity for another. Respect for the other guy yet another...a kind of shared, common value as strong as the railroad that runs across our country.

We are, above all, a nation of the future. It's in our DNA. Oh, I got one other answer to the question, 'What Makes a Canadian?' contributed by my grandson, 10 years old, going on 25. 'Luck,' he said. For emphasis, 'Canadians are lucky.' He and the lady from Locke Street have it just right.
Canadians are the living demonstration of an idea
stronger than mortal genes and their short-lived expression.”

Canadian With a Mission ~ Pushing Limits

Cardinal Newman Teacher Riding Across Canada for Mental Health
(Excerpts from an article by Nicole O'Reilly)
Jim Zvonar is spending the summer seeing Canada from the seat of his bicycle ~ a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that is the fulfillment of a dream that began in his 20's. The trip is part of a 50th birthday celebration for the Catholic Secondary School physics teacher, whose birthday was July 30, but also has a purpose: to raise awareness and money for mental health.. At the writing of this article, he started in British Columbia...and made it to Northern Ontario.

Mental illness has touched his family deeply, first with the suicides of his uncle and cousin while Zvonar was in his teens...and the more recent death of his brother-in-law, who he knew since a boy.
Suicide and mental illness are difficult subjects to talk about,
but Zvonar said he wants to help reduce stigma and encourage others,
especially young people, to seek help early on.
Zvonar was hoping to raise at least One Dollar for Every Kilometre, so about $7,500. The money is going to the Suicide Prevention Community Council of Hamilton (SPCCH), to help fund youth-based mental health initiatives in local schools. “Over the past three years, the council has funded such programs in 36 schools in the Hamilton area,” said SPCCH chair Sid Stacey.“Jim is extremely passionate about helping to equip and empower youth, to recognize early warning signs and connect with the care and supports required to achieve positive mental health,” said Stacey.

Jim Zvonar's Purpose: “I'd like to provide inspiration for others to 'push thier limits and reach for their dreams.' I want them to take the leap and not be scared or hesitant about the unknown.”
The trip along the Trans Canada Highway will end
when he ceremoniously dips the tire of his bike in the Atlantic Ocean
at Cape Spear near St. John's, Newfoundland.

The Girl on the Train (in Morocco) Inspired Me
(Excerpts from a writing by Hughena Matheson who lives in Burlington)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has caused me embarrassment. On the international stage, he switches between English and French with such ease that people assume all Canadians speak both official languages fluently. I do not...and I am embarrassed about this.

Recently I travelled by train from Fes to Rabat. When a young Moroccan woman noticed my Maple Leaf pin, she greeted me in French. I replied in English...and effortly, she switched languages. She is fluent in Arabic and French (Morocco's official languages), also 'English and Spanish. In Morocco, as in Europe, being multilingual seems normal. However, in North America, where most people have the advantage of speaking English, there is not the same need or eagerness to learn other languages.
The girl on the train should inspire us...especially young Canadians.
With their careers ahead of them, speaking more than one language is an asset.
According to Ontario's Ministry of Education,
acquiring another language will 'increase their competitiveness
in an increasingly global job market.'
My nephew's sons are competitive already. Since birth, my nephew spoke to them in English and their mother spoke French to them. Now, at the age of 13 and 10, they are totally bilingual. In the future, if they want employment with the Federal Government, they can add bilingual to their resumes. Learning a second language also helps students to 'develop their understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures.'With language learning comes the learning of another culture: its history, customs, religion, food, music and art.' In multicultural Canada, that should be encouraged.

Compiled by Merle Baird-Kerr...August 1, 2017

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