Home > Canadian Culture, Immigration, Kids > Will My Son Label Himself Canadian, British or American?

Will My Son Label Himself Canadian, British or American?

A recent comment on  my blog got me thinking. The comment, from my friend Maria, questioned what pieces of the accents of his English dad, American mom, and Quebec home he would pick up. It got me thinking about his ‘identity’.

I am a dual citizen – British by birth, Canadian by naturalization. Kerri – my much better half  – is American. My son was born in Pointe-Claire, Quebec in 2009. He is Canadian.

I never got round to applying for my Canadian passport, so I travel on a UK one. Kerri holds an American passport, and my boy has a Canadian one. This seems particularly confusing and disturbing for US customs officials. And, I find myself wondering if Evan (that’s my son) will grow up confused about his national identity.

When you ask Canadians about their nationality, many tend to answer by describing their heritage. I had a conversation with two Canadian colleagues recently on this subject. One is of Indian heritage, but was born and has lived her entire life in Montreal, the other has Iranian ancestry, and has been in Montreal since her formative years. They felt that when someone asked where they were from, they were actually enquiring about their lineage. That’s why, when asked, they tell people of their heritage.

Does it matter that people who were born and raised in this vast country answer ‘Scotland‘, or ‘Morocco’, or ‘Italy’ to the question ‘where are you from’? Does it dilute Canadian national identity? Or add to the eclectic melting pot we live in?

I’ve reminded myself of someone I met very early in my Canadian adventure. He was a barman (go figure – I met a barman in my first days in Canada. No idea how that happened). He was a big guy. I’d put him at 6 foot 3 inches. And wide too – strong, muscular. He was wearing a tartan skirt. Or as the Scots like to call it, a kilt. His chest was adorned with a blue t-shirt with the cross of St. Andrew blazoned across the front, and the word ‘Scotland’ in old-fashioned, intricate looking lettering. I got talking to him.

“You’re Scottish?” I asked.

“I’m Scottish and English” he replied.


“My Mum…”, he emphasized the ‘U’ in mum, “…is Scottish, and mi Dad is English. From Caaaarlisle.” He explained. The emphasis on the ‘U’, the use of ‘mi dad’, and the drawled out aaarrrr in Carlisle, adding what he thought was authenticity to his claim. It was somewhat contradicted by his obvious Canadian accent.

“Oh great!”, I said. “When was the last time you were back?”

“Never been. I’d love to go.”

Is this my son’s future?

  1. April 20, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I wonder if this is a Quebec thing? I’ve lived in NB (where I grew up), Ontario & Alberta & I have NEVER met a Canadian who described themselves as anything other than Canadian (even the ones who were not born there). My lineage is British (Scottish & English) but I am Canadian. I personally would hope that people would see themselves as Canadian first, there is nothing that winds me up like the double-barreled nationality (ie: Irish-American, Mexican-American, Japanese-American), especially from people who were not born, or have never stepped foot in the country constituting the begining of that double-barrel. Just my 2p!

  2. April 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    It’s a fair point – and you could be right. It might even be just a Montreal thing. The city is a cultural melting pot for sure. Or, it might be that I tend to interact with immigrants more since I am one myself.

    Many here that are not immigrants would consider themselves Quebecois before or even instead of Canadian, too. It’s very fair and valid to suggest that Quebec is not representative of Canada as a whole in a myriad of ways.

    I tend to refer to myself as British-Canadian, but when pushed – when the tires hit the ground – I am British. I can take or leave the hockey, but I MUST see the football (the proper football).

  3. April 21, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    I know what you mean. When (if)I eventually do get my dual citizenship I know that I will still refer to myself as Canadian. I was born & raised in Canada, therefore I am Canadian….and always shall be!

    Now, about the soccer…….I’ll pass, I prefer rugby, thanks

  4. April 25, 2011 at 8:36 am

    That’s really the point isn’t it? Regardless of where you live, or what your passport says, you really are what you were brought up as. I could not set foot in the UK for the next 40 years, and still consider myself British. I’m sure that’s true with you too, with Canada.

    You know rugby players have odd shaped balls, right?

  1. August 26, 2012 at 9:51 am

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