Some Canadian politicians have often tried to define what Canadian values are. Of course they have not succeeded, simply because this is an impossible task.
It was easy to be reminded of this while checking out the work of Tim Van Horn last week. The enthusiastic Alberta photographer made a stop in Burns Lake with his Canadian mosaic project, which involves a motorhome wrapped with over 10,000 photographs of everyday Canadians from over 1250 communities from every province and territory – including Burns Lake.
The photographs portray people from every imaginable walk of life, race, style and character. And the project is still a work in progress… as Horn passionately shared his work with Burns Lake residents he also offered to take their portraits to add to his portfolio.
Through the thousands of images, the project reminds us that Canadians cannot be defined – they are a beautiful mix of races, beliefs, religions and personalities. However, Horn says that he did find a couple of common traits among Canadians – compassion and kindness.
But I would add one more, one trait that unfortunately is still not widespread among the wealthy nations – seeing diversity as strength.
While many countries still feel threatened by diversity, we are lucky to live in a place that values it. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, or because Canadians are compassionate people, but because we realize that diversity helps us grow.
Picture a company’s board of directors in which all directors always agree on issues; that board would probably not be very effective. Picture a sports team in which every team member has the same strengths and weaknesses; that team would most likely suffer under pressure. Picture a couple that has similar traits that don’t complement each other; they’ll probably have less chances of having a healthy relationship.
We need different ways of seeing the world, different strengths and different values. They don’t cause us any harm; they simply add to the beautiful mix that is Canada, bringing their own unique flavours.
This is why Canada, in so many ways, is leading the world right now – because we understand this simple truth.
As someone who didn’t grow up in Canada, looking at the Canadian mosaic project not only made me feel personally welcomed and part of something bigger, but it also made me feel proud to have chosen to live here.
As Horn eloquently puts it, we are “a country with an indefinable ethnic mosaic steeped in compassion and kindness.” Canada is already reaping the benefits of this attitude as we continue to attract more and more talents, businesses and investments to this country.
And so it’s important that we keep it that way, and remain open and compassionate while other nations hang on to the belief that they have to desperately “protect their values.”