New Brunswick

Millennials: mixed feelings about patriotism, but strong ones about Canada

A recent poll released by CBC/Angus Reid suggests millennials have a "cooler relationship to Canada" than older generations, but some young people disagree.

A CBC/Angus Reid poll indicates Canadians aged 18 to 34 are the least proud of their country

Some millennials in Fredericton say their patriotism is shaped by a very different experience than that of older generations. (Brad Barket/Getty Images)

Poppies are in full bloom on the jackets of Canadians everywhere, but how many of those jackets belong to the millennial generation?

A recent CBC/Angus Reid poll suggests Canadians 18 to 34 years old "have a much cooler relationship to Canada" and might not be as patriotic as their older counterparts.

Don Swain, branch president of the Royal Canadian Legion in Fredericton, says the importance of Canadian pride has been set aside in schools.

"It's up to parents and grandparents to teach the younger generation what Nov. 11 means," he said on the eve of Remembrance Day.

'Fallen deserve respect'

Millennials are the age of the Canadians who served and died in wars last century and this, but Swain says they must be exposed to history if they're to grasp the significance of Nov. 11.

"It all becomes knowledge that should become passed down for the newer generations," he said.

"I think it's a must. It's respect for our fallen, and I think they deserve all the respect because it's the freedom that we enjoy today that was brought to us by the people that served in the First and Second World Wars."

Don Swain, president of Fredericton's Royal Canadian Legion branch, says a big problem is the lack of Canadian military history being taught in schools. (Neil Cochrane/CBC)

William Cumming, a 20-year old St. Thomas University student, says he believes the disconnect between millennials and their country is a result of their connection to the rest of the world via the internet.

"Especially since we grew up with it and [we] could get an idea of what other countries in the world are like and compare them to our own," Cumming said.

Swain said young people's connection to new technology has been a hurdle. The military has even started using it as a way to draw in younger veterans, creating "gaming bunkers" with gaming systems and televisions for soldiers to use on their downtime.

Different form of patriotism

Some young people say millennials simply express patriotism in a new, different way. Some says the overall difference in experience between their own generation and their parents' is a factor. 

"We haven't really gotten a chance to see how strong we are as a nation," said Dalton Heagney, 19.

He said the young may struggle in social realms but don't know the degree of hardships experienced by much older people. 

"If people were more patriotic and proud, I think it would be better."

Beth McCoy, 26, said she thinks young people have a great devotion to Canada. She said how millennials have taken to civil engagement is proof of that.

"Our generation grew up watching and listening to the Quebec referendum, the Charlottetown Accord, the Meech Lake Accord," she said. "My sense is that, in having that experience, many millennials are very interested and very motivated to participate in political discourse."

Drawn to specific issues

McCoy said millennials are more likely to be interested in things like electoral reform and Aboriginal rights.

"No matter where the millennials' values lie, my perception is that the millennial is most likely to participate in the conversation about making Canada the best it can be," she said. "To me, that's very patriotic."

Heagney said he is hopeful the perspective will change and that younger Canadians will come to understand their country and be proud of it.

"All people need to do is step outside and look around," said Heagney. "If the beauty you see doesn't make you proud then I don't know what would."

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