The identity parade

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We’re about to head into national holiday season, as we get heartfelt appeals to all our various identities.

First off, of course, is National Aboriginal Day, June 21. Three days later, on June 24, Quebec celebrates its “Fête nationale,” la Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Canada Day is another day off a week later on July 1. And finally, for all the dual citizens, aging draft dodgers and political refugees among us, there’s US Independence Day on July 4.

We North Americans like to celebrate. Four important holidays in two weeks! Now, imagine if you’re an Aboriginal with dual US-Canada citizenship living in Quebec. You’d have the best of all worlds.

Or, perhaps, the worst. Too often we use “national” identity as a means to exclude.

Many Quebec nationalists like to imagine that a real Québécois is limited to white, francophone Catholics.

Some right-wingers across Canada – hello Stephen Harper! – make appeals to so-called “old-stock Canadians.” Meaning, of course, that more recent immigrants with darker skin tones and unfamiliar fashions are somehow less Canadian than those issued from the British Isles.

We’ve all seen the rabid Tea-Party types down south on television mindlessly shouting “USA! USA! USA!” at anyone they consider overly educated or insufficiently hateful and violent, such as their own president.

And, if you happen to be a Mohawk living in Kahnawake whose “blood quotient” has been judged to be too diluted, you may also feel more than a little excluded from the identity game.

We should be using these days to be inclusive. In the end, despite our identities, we are all human beings, able to love and interbreed and create a marvellous mosaic of interlocking ethnicities. And we all have to live together.

So here’s a suggestion. Perhaps we should play a game of spin the bottle with our national holidays.

Let’s have Quebecers set off fireworks on Canada Day, Canadians outside Quebec dance in powwows on National Aboriginal Day, those of Indigenous descent can sing The Star-Spangled Banner on Independence Day, and, finally, have our American cousins sing Gens du pays on la Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

That would be something to celebrate.

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