The last Soup and Substance session for Fall 2014, titled "Where RU From? Questions and Encounters of Canadian Identities" focused on the experiences of those who are constantly asked where are they from. For some this question is a way of breaking the ice, but for others it triggers emotions and notions about country of origin, belonging, and citizenship, especially when it happens over and over again.
My first year living in Canada I was asked "Where are you from?" quite often. While that part of the question was fine with me, it seemed strange that people would also say "you don't sound Canadian" and "you don't sound Jamaican" and servers at restaurants would say "So, how long will you be here?". In both cases, my American accent gives me away, but is it assumed that all Black people in Canada are from Jamaica. There are Black people here from all over the world, including African countries and the UK, but more importantly Black Canadian families who have lived here for generations.
Since I am living in a city with people who have moved here from all over the world, these encounters make sense to a degree; Nonetheless, at what point are you no longer an immigrant and are considered a Canadian citizen whereby the question need not be asked? And what does it mean to be "Canadian"? I could assume it means you like hockey, cold weather, poutine, and are quick to say sorry. Someone told me that Canada is "a nicer version of America".
When I hear the Canadian national anthem "O Canada" where it speaks of Canada being the "True North strong and free" that aspect of the song resonates with me. Knowing your compass, your strengths…as a Black person from America, going North is connected with freedom. Now that I am here in the "True North" and see what is happening in America through the lens of my Canadian experience, I wish other Americans could have the same experience. By no means is Canada perfect or free of racism, discrimination and the like. However, given my experience of the two worlds, instead of responding to "Where are you from?", I'll say: "I'm at home, following my True North!".
The Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) at Ryerson University presents the Soup & Substance Series, a series of noon hour moderated panel discussions held at Podium (POD) 250 (unless otherwise noted). While enjoying a warm bowl of soup and refreshments, participants will engage panelists in an open conversation on a range of diversity related topics. Dr. Denise O’Neil Green, Assistant Vice President/Vice Provost of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), will moderate the series, which will be free and open to the public.
The Ryerson University's Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is committed to accessibility for Persons with Disabilities. Please contact us 2 weeks in advance of the event if you have any particular accommodation requirements. Also, if you have any dietary restrictions please contact us at 416-979-5000 ext. 3243 or firstname.lastname@example.org