Your Canada: Manitobans reflect on what being Canadian means to them

CBC Manitoba asked eight people what they will be thinking about on July 1 and how they are hoping to be part of a better future for all people in Canada.

CBC Manitoba asked 8 people from all walks of life to answer the question, 'What’s Your Canada?'

Reem Elmahi says Canada has accomplished a lot in terms of human rights, but it still has a long way to go. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

In the week leading up to Canada Day, CBC Manitoba's Information Radio has been featuring thoughtful commentary of hope and hurt from eight different Manitobans as they reflect on the country they live in.

Each person was given three prompts: 

1. My Canada is _______.
2. In my Canada, people understand the history of _______ and know that to move forward we need to _______.

We also asked people what they plan to do in the upcoming year.

Here are some of their responses.

My Canada is complex

Reem Elmahi is a student and the president of the University of Manitoba's Black Students Union. For her, Canada is complex: it's accomplished a lot in terms of human rights, but it still has a long way to go.

"I know that to move forward, we need to make sure that we're talking about racism and anti-Muslim sentiments with people from a young age," she said.

"So in schools, [that means] talking to children and letting them ask those questions so that when they're older, they become well-rounded, intelligent people who understand the world not just from a small bubble."

Canada is unique

Ogo Okwumabua is the co-owner of Zueike, an athletic apparel and lifestyle company. (Walther Bernal)

Ogo Okwumabua is the co-owner of Zueike, an athletic apparel and lifestyle company. He says that in order for Canada to move forward, we need to communicate and talk. 

His company plans to continue "to give back to our community, continue to have discussions that need to be had and try doing different things that can unify our community."

A true wake-up call

Osaed Khan, a teacher and father of three, plans to educate his children on the true history of Canada and show them what the country has to offer. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"In my Canada, we understand the history of how we treated others that are different than ourselves," says Osaed Khan, a teacher and father of three.

Khan grew up in Altona but now lives in Winnipeg. 

"It's a true wake-up call of a truly complicated and sometimes shameful history of our treatment of Indigenous people," says Khan.

He plans to educate his children on the true history of Canada, and show them what the country has to offer.

"Show them history. Show them landscape. Show them the great scenery. Show them all aspects."

This is not my Canada

'Canada is a system that was imposed on these lands,' says Hetxw'ms Gyetxw. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Hetxw'ms Gyetxw is Gitxsan from the northwest Interior of B.C. but lives now on Treaty 1 territory in Winnipeg. He says that Canada is a system, and that we must work to understand the true histories of the establishment of this system.

"Canada is a system that was imposed on these lands. To move forward, we must acknowledge the genocide that is the foundation of the development of this country," he said.

"Here is what I do every year and every day. I educate the people about the truth.

"I step aside and let the matriarchs lead. I seek to dismantle the patriarchy that established this country and that type of pride that goes with it. I seek to help build new relationships."

Canada is our home, but we're also guests 

Aira Villanueva is a student and the founder of Electronic Waste Manitoba. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"We have to acknowledge and respect the land. We also have to be allies and actively listen to the Indigenous people," says Aira Villanueva.

Earlier this year, Villanueva founded Electronic Waste Manitoba, a non-profit that recycles and refurbishes electronics and keeps them out of landfills.

"One of my missions is to reduce the digital divide. Black, Indigenous and people of colour are the ones who are most hit by this digital divide," she said.

"I have and will continue to donate electronics such as computers and laptops to different non-profit organizations and students who are in these."

Much more to learn

Wanda Yamamoto says we need to learn to be compassionate and to seek truth and reconciliation. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Wanda Yamamoto is the director of administration at Aurora Family Therapy Centre. She believes that as Canadians, we need to learn to be compassionate and to seek truth and reconciliation. 

"My Canada is diverse and understanding. In my Canada, we need to understand the history of residential schools. We need to know about the unmarked graves in Kamloops and in Saskatchewan," she said.

"We need to know about the history of the Indigenous soldiers who fought for Canada and were forgotten. We need to know about the Japanese internment campsm anti-Black racism, the history of slavery.

"There's so much more that we as Canadians needs to learn."

My Canada is accessible

Jordan Sangalang, a father of two and a deaf person, envisions a Canada that is accessible for deaf people and people hard of hearing. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Jordan Sangalang is a father of two and is also deaf. His Canada is one that is accessible for deaf people.

"In my Canada, we would understand the barriers imposed on the deaf and hard of hearing. Individual, institutional and systemic," he said.

Sangalang believes the key to creating a more accessible Canada for deaf people is empathy.

"We can empathize and understand one another by making these connections, by learning sign language or providing sign language, interpreting services so we could both communicate."

Keep engaging in meaningful conversation 

Sister Lesley Sacouman says she's committed to engaging, meaningful conversations with newcomers and Indigenous leaders. (Lesley Sacouman/Twitter)

Sister Lesley Sacouman has always called Canada home.

She was one of the founding members of Rossbrook House in Winnipeg and now lives and works at Holy Names House of Peace in downtown Winnipeg. 

Sacouman is committed to engaging, meaningful conversations with newcomers and Indigenous leaders.

"Since 1970, when I first moved to the inner city, my compass has been these words of an Indigenous elder: 'If you have come here to help me, then go home. But if your liberation is tied up with mine, then let's walk and work together.'

"That's what I'm committed to."

With files from Marcy Markusa, Wendy Parker and Walther Bernal