I remember back when I was in grade ten or eleven our school hosted citizenship court. I helped plan the ceremony and serve at the luncheon after. I remember it being the first day I really thought about how fortunate I was to be born in Canada. Our school gym was filled with people from nations all over the world who had left their home in search of something better, in search of a new life. They all clutched so tightly to their new Canadian citizenship paper as they took pictures with everyone and anyone (I remember a few people even asking me to be in the shot, and I was just serving punch that day). Their joy that day was contagious, and their love for my home land really made me stop and give thanks for my nation and nationality.
Today I was over visiting one of my old Uyghur friends. She had new pictures her daughter had just sent from Canada. Among them were shots of the whole family at citizenship court. The looks on their faces were no different than what I had seen that day at high school. Without thinking I blurted out “Oh look, your daughter is Canadian now!” I was sure this older woman must share in the relief and joy of knowing that her daughter and grandkids now have official citizenship in such a great country. But instead of seeming grateful she seemed upset. To her these pictures did not represent a day of celebration, but a day of doom. In her mind her daughter had turned her back on their culture, their nation, all the history she had tried to pass down. “Why did they do that?” she asked, “they didn’t need to be Canadian, they were already Uyghur.” For every person at court that day, there was a family back in the homeland worrying and wondering how this was pulling their family away from them.
My friend saw nationality as a major definition of who a person is. The more I thought about it the more I was glad that while yes I am Canadian, that is not my number one citizenship.