“It’s important to be aware of your history,” my father once told me. To be honest, I was never fond of my father’s words, and he didn’t speak much, anyway. This, nonetheless, is a profound remark, though I probably came to understand it a bit differently from what my father intended.
I’d always perceived my history as static; however, I’ve recently realized that my history is changeable. I’m constantly influenced by the milieu in which I live, and this milieu is shaped by distinct historical factors. My history in Libya was that of the Arabs in North Africa and the Middle East, but my history in Canada is a lot more complex and intersectional. As a foreign-born Canadian who belongs to sexual, racial, and religious minorities, I understand that my history is largely that of minorities in this country, but it’s also, to a lesser extent, that of its diverse cultures and the historical events that created Canada.
On March 16th of this year, I attended my citizenship ceremony. My being Canadian is dissimilar to that of a native-born Canadian in at least one apparent way: I made an active choice to join this country. In fact, I took the actions needed to become one. There are reasons why I wanted to become Canadian: First and foremost, it’s my way of legitimizing my love for and sense of belonging to this country; it’s also a way to obtain rights and, perhaps, privileges that my former citizenship never provided me.
There are many astounding things about our country: freedoms, diversity, and picturesque landscapes, to name a few. On the other hand, it’s a colonial country; I truly wish our reality as a nation was different. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to admit that the colonial history of this country, and the ongoing colonialism, is also my history. As Canadians—whether or not we’re conscious of it, whether we were born Canadians or chose to become ones—we are participants and beneficiaries of this colonial system. It’s vital that we claim collective responsibility for our reality. In my father’s words: “It’s important to be aware of [our] history.”