Canadians are proud

Wherever you were on Sunday afternoon, you probably witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of Canadian pride.

Streets were blocked, viewers were brought to tears and people who don’t even like sports rose to their feet when Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal in overtime during the men’s hockey finals.

And whether you celebrated with drinks, hugged total strangers or took to the streets of Waterloo, it’s hard to deny that it was the moment we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives.

16.6 million viewers tuned in across the country, making the gold medal hockey game the most-watched television event in Canadian history.

And while for many Canadians the Olympics were defined by our hockey victory, it is clear the country was also able to engage with the games on a larger level.
A whopping 6.9 million viewers witnessed team skip Kevin Martin lead the Canadian men’s curling team to gold, and 4.6 million viewers watched Jon Montgomery win the gold in skeleton.

And, even though both of these sports are entirely off the radar for the majority of Canadians, many of us tuned in to cheer on these athletes.

On whole, 52 per cent of Canadians polled by Toronto’s Historica-Dominion Institute have agreed that the Vancouver Olympics were more defining for Canada than the 1972 Hockey Summit Series, the 1967 Centennial Expo and both the Montreal and Calgary Olympics.

And after re-polling the Canadian public last week – a year after an original Historica-Dominian survey was conducted asking Canadians about their nationality – votes suggest that citizens are seven per cent more likely to call themselves Canadian, first and foremost, and the reason for this seems pretty obvious.

So have the games brought a renewed sense of patriotism for Canadians?
Most of us find it difficult to pinpoint what makes us Canadian as a whole.
Almost 50 years ago, scholar Marshall McLuhan stated: “Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity.”
And, while for most of us this seems like an overstatement, it still rings true in part.

Who we are, what we believe in and the eccentricities that make us unique seem to differ with every degree of latitude and longitude across this country – evident when we move from east to west and when we traverse the multitude of cultures found in our population.

It’s hard to connect the people of Canada without resorting to the type of stereotypes suggested in the closing ceremonies, like beavers and Mounties.
Yet for anyone who saw the game on Sunday or the immense expression of support and excitement throughout the games, our identity seemed so obvious and tangible.

For me, it is precisely this odd paradox that constitutes “The Canadian Identity”.
While our patchwork community seems to fade in comparison to the strong, over-arching patriotism that the United States cherishes, it is our ability to come together as a country during the most defining moments that makes us proud Canadians.

Whether it was the collective proclamation of Jon Montgomery as a Canadian hero when he chugged half a pitcher of beer on the streets of Whistler after winning the gold or our ability to feel as a nation for figure skater Joannie Rochette’s family tragedy, it was those moments that bonded us as a country.

And with 99 per cent of Canadians watching or reading about the Olympics at some time throughout the 17 days, it is clear that the immense support was about something bigger than sports.

While we may not display our patriotism openly every day with flags hung on each house or proclaim ourselves as the best (or even care about being the best most of the time), when the occasion arises, we take to the streets, flood Facebook with support and are prepared to celebrate like theres no tomorrow.

Our love of this country is subdued and powerful, waiting to make itself known. We just need something to cheer about.