Should individuals and groups in Canada embrace a national identity?

Let's look at this lineup of people.

Can you identify the Canadians in the above group? How would you know? Without some sort of distinguishing characteristics or symbols, the task would be impossible.

So, what distinguishes Canadians from other people in other countries? What is it that makes us identify ourselves as Canadians?

There are multiple perspectives that people would say defines Canadians:
Geography: although people living in Canada have a common geographical location, Canada is also a very large area spanning many types of geographical and climatic regions. People in Canada also do not experience similar geographic conditions.

History: people often assume that Canadians share or have a similar historical background; but Canada is made up of a variety of people who have vast differences in historical backgrounds and connections, which can sometimes disrupt the development of a common identity.

Canadian policies: policies such as multiculturalism and bilingualism have resulted from trying to come to terms with the question of Canadian identity.

Diversity: the diverse nature of Canada’s population can impact the extent in which Canadians develop strong community relationships drawn together by a common identity.

We recognize that these multiple perspectives influences who Canadians are as a whole. However, multiple perspectives also impact an individual's personal identity. As we studied in Unit 1, an individual’s personal identity is also formed by many other factors, such as inherited characteristics, one’s environment and personal experiences. It is expected that personal identity would evolve and grow through new experiences, and people reinvent themselves to define their identity.

© Pixabay

People also develop their identity with involvement and exposure to other groups. Shared experiences or interests (such as family activities or traditions, ethnic or religious groups, schools, clubs, or sports teams) contribute to the development of one's identity. With common feelings drawn from shared interests, groups are brought closer and bonds become stronger. Of course, people can belong to several groups at one time, and they can identify with each or many groups as situations change.

So much like one’s personal identity, a nation’s identity evolves as people develop their identities within these shared or common groups. Feelings of national identity can result from communicating ideas and sharing feelings with others. What causes us to feel a strong national identity can change as our experiences change. Consequently, personal and group identities merge to form part of an ever-changing national identity.


Canadians are often associated with stereotypes, such as our love of maple syrup, our extensive politeness, our use of "eh," and our love of hockey (just to name a few). But, what about our national identity? What are fundamental characteristics of the Canadian national identity? Think about what makes up our national identity as Canadians as you move onto the next page.