When we think of “multiculturism,” that word that the senior PM Trudeau carved into our everyday vocabulary, we usually think of ethic backgrounds.
Especially here in the Southwest corner of BC, we associate multiculturism with the diversity of our origins, whether that be British, French, Chinese, Indo-Canadian, Iranian, Filipino, Italian, German, Ukrainian, Korean, First Nations, Ethiopian, and perhaps a hundred others.
But a recent incident caused me to wonder whether the term shouldn’t be expanded in our collective parlance. I’m wondering whether we don’t have “a diversity of multiculturisms.”
We’d completed our curling game for the night and, as is the practice, ascended to the upper lounge to share a round of beverages with our opponents. (There’s a reason tables in curling clubs are round, and seat eight). On this night, seven of us stayed for the debrief (err, banter).
It soon emerged that six of us had our roots in Saskatchewan. Thereupon the conversation turned to reminiscing about our good old days back in that province. For an hour the conversation meandered around such themes as our experiences at the University of Saskatchewan, the Wild Goose Hockey League, the shenanigans associated with one’s youth, the Roughriders, the various landmarks that became favorite watering holes, “the Co-op,” and about the small-town behaviours and interactions (but surprisingly little about farming.)
Yup, it was a real blast from the past, with the six of us, all (I presumed) over 55, basking again in the culture of our youth on the prairies.
It struck me how different that culture was from the one to which I’ve adapted to here in the Fraser Valley, which, itself, seems a cultural light-year away from that of Vancouver.
Having such strong roots in Saskatchewan, I’ve continued to feel a connection there and have tried to keep up with the goings on in that province, and in the prairies, generally.
And, you know what? I don’t think the contrast I experienced in that setting from that of my current cultural setting is strictly attributable to the march of time. I’m pretty sure the current Saskatchewan culture (or cultures) is still considerably closer to our deja vu experience last Thursday than to the one I feel here in the Fraser Valley, and certainly to that of Vancouver.
And it’s definitely far different from that of Quebec, or Atlantic Canada.
For at least four decades already, Canadian geographers have divided the country into six regions, not five, having severed off the Pacific region from “Western Canada” (how ironic!), which now includes only the Prairie Provinces and some of the eastern portions of BC, like the Peace River country (though I would argue that, culturally, the “Western” region intrudes into BC all the way to parts of the Okanagan and, further north, invades as far as Prince George.)
Geographers have long known what much of Canada still fails to grasp: how different the Pacific Coast is from that region called Western Canada.
If you’re old enough to remember Expo ‘86, you may recall, as I do, that the California pavilion revolved around the theme of “the Californias.” It highlighted the many different regions, geographic and cultural, within that state, which fits almost the same population as Canada into an area less than 1/20th our size. And even that concentration of humans has so many enclaves that they could identify as “the Californias.”
With our vastly greater isolation from one another here in Canada, and with the far greater physical barriers segmenting this country than their state, we have all the more reason to expect the existence of numerous geographical cultures and enclaves in addition to our ethnic ones.
We do have a diversity of multiculturisms.
Maybe we could more accurately refer to ourselves as “The Canadas.”
And, given what we’re seeing in the politics to the south of us, if they were more illustrative in describing themselves, they might consider an appellation of “The Americas” or perhaps, the “Disunited States.”
Hopefully, we’re not following them down their path, despite the presence of The Canadas.
But I sometimes wonder.