My Canada Measha Brueg­ger­gos­man re­flects

Globe-trot­ting opera sen­sa­tion Measha Brueg­ger­gos­man takes stock of the mean­ing of Canada at home and abroad

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - Measha Brueg­ger­gos­man’s mem­oir, Some­thing Is Al­ways On Fire: My Life So Far is out this fall from Harper Av­enue.

THERE IS DAN­GER to be­ing Cana­dian. It lulls you into a false sense of se­cu­rity and makes you feel like democ­racy, health care and per­va­sive peace are nor­mal. We could throw a dart at a map, and chances are, how­ever, it will be some­where where fel­low cit­i­zens of this world ex­pe­ri­ence a much harsher daily re­al­ity. It’s not nor­mal to be set up to have gen­er­a­tional pros­per­ity sim­ply be­cause of where you were born. Rel­a­tive to the “norm” ex­pe­ri­enced by mil­lions world­wide, for the ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans, be­ing born here is tan­ta­mount to win­ning the lot­tery.

What I love about Canada is that it put me in po­si­tion. Be­ing born fe­male and black, there is so much that would not have been within my reach. I am within strik­ing dis­tance of such pros­per­ity that I know the race has got to be rigged. I have done noth­ing to de­serve this. Yet, through the bless­ing and grace of po­si­tion­ing, at least five gen­er­a­tions of my fam­ily (so far) have con­ceived of, con­structed and lived out lives of their own choos­ing. If I truly be­lieve that to whom much is given much is re­quired, then I am to use my cit­i­zen­ship for God’s glory, which means I am to love and help peo­ple with grat­i­tude and thanks­giv­ing. Pe­riod. It is a hum­bling truth that, with a flap of the but­ter­fly wings, I could have eas­ily been born into poverty, a war zone, a con­tam­i­nated earth. But in­stead, I live in one of the most beau­ti­ful coun­tries in the world, pos­sess­ing one of the most beau­ti­ful peo­ples in the world.

As I travel the globe singing, I know first­hand that the Cana­dian rep­u­ta­tion for pos­sess­ing a healthy dose of the right kind of hu­man­ity is more than a ru­mour. Our nice­ness is sta­pled to ev­ery com­ment about us and has se­cured our rep­u­ta­tion at the top of the global food chain. But within our sym­bolic bor­ders di­vid­ing “us” from “them,” we also ex­pand our­selves through a de­sire to right wrongs, es­pe­cially once they’re dis­cov­ered. The cam­paign to do right is a fight that rages within ev­ery hu­man. It is not uniquely Cana­dian. Our short­com­ings and mis­giv­ings about do­ing right by each other are shared uni­ver­sally and aren’t unique to this coun­try. We aren’t the only so­ci­ety to won­der if we couldn’t be do­ing more. Our out­rage at our own missed op­por­tun- ities and naivety shouldn’t be swept aside and ig­nored. But mis­man­aged and in­ef­fi­ciently han­dled though they may be, the re­sources at our dis­posal – both hu­man and fis­cal – put us in a po­si­tion to ef­fect tan­gi­ble change that can rip­ple into the dark­est cor­ners of in­equity, both at home and abroad.

Our idea of “abroad” isn’t the one we grew up with. Bor­ders and monikers lose their mean­ing be­cause we are them and they are us. There is no di­vide. In their hearts, Cana­di­ans don’t fight this truth. But I know by watch­ing my two- and five-year-old sons that shar­ing is hard. My sons are pun­ished if they don’t share be­cause com­pas­sion is taught. It does not come nat­u­rally. We have to forcibly stop our­selves from har­bour­ing halftruths and rhetoric that al­lows us to keep all the toys for our­selves. But cre­at­ing space and re­sources for an­other sack of flesh and blood is what sep­a­rates us from the an­i­mals.

I have worked hard and sac­ri­ficed and lived through pe­ri­ods of plenty and sur­vived pe­ri­ods of none. I have been the kind of poor that forces me to choose be­tween ne­ces­si­ties, not ex­cesses. I don’t have job se­cu­rity or a pen­sion. There is no safety net or Christ­mas bonus. My in­come bobs and weaves, and I am hardly a ge­nius when it comes to money man­age­ment but I’d rather be poor in Canada than any­where else be­cause, even on my worst day, I have enough to give to the per­son next to me.

So, let’s not dis­cour­age our­selves need­lessly by fight­ing among our­selves. Through the sheer force of what glows in the hearts of our pop­u­lace, we can demo­crat­i­cally force the hand of our lead­ers to do what is right, be it for our First Na­tions peo­ples, our new im­mi­grants or for the chil­dren of this fifth-gen­er­a­tion descen­dant of eman­ci­pated slaves. We have a call­ing on each of our lives to be more be­cause what we have been given by way of per­sonal au­ton­omy, free­dom of ex­pres­sion, land­scape and ac­tion­able am­bi­tion is a re­source whose re­newal should be cel­e­brated and not be taken for granted. I have the right to choose where I live, the priv­i­lege of elect­ing my lead­ers, the chance to keep my chil­dren healthy and my glass half-full of op­ti­mism.

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