We are Canadians. We’re called that because we come from Canada.

We were born in Canada—or moved here.

We live here now—most of us do, or we’re related to someone who does.

Somehow we all relate to Canada. To be Canadian is to be related.

To know Canadians is to know our relations—to our land, to each other, to the other peoples of the world. That is what makes us what we are.

We are a people in the making.

Five hundred years ago “Kanata” meant living in huts by a river.

Three hundred years ago it meant to be French and Catholic.

A hundred years ago it meant to be British in North America.

No one can say exactly what it means to be Canadian, because it’s always changing. The moment we think we’ve got it, we find we’ve left something out.

That’s because our story is a journey: a voyage of discovery where no one has gone before.

There’s no map to show us the way, no set of rules, only our commitment to the voyage and to each other. That is what it means to be a people in the making.

We are a people in the middle, with others around us. The explorers were looking for a passage to India, China, Japan: a quick way of getting around the world.

But the world was bigger than they thought, and Canada was in the way of where they wanted to go.

We’re looking for a way of getting along together in the world—of living together—and Canadians are still in the middle.

For those looking for a quick passage, a straight line through, we’re in the way: We have no one way to do things, no single language or culture, no Canadian way to think.

But to those who will stop, look, listen and learn from each other, we’re not in the way—we’re on the way: on the way to where Earth is going together.

We are a meeting place. When the Europeans stopped trying to get around Canada and stayed to build a new country with the first peoples, we found ourselves in the middle of a tug-of-war.

In the east it was between Britain and France.

On the west coast it was between Britain and Spain.

Across the Great Lakes and all over, it was between the United States and Britain.

It the northwest it was between Britain and Russia.

In the Cold War, Canada was between the United States and Russia.

Canadians have always been in the middle. When the other countries stopped fighting over us, they started talking through us, using Canadians as a go-between.

For years the United States and China wouldn’t talk to each other—they’d talk to Canada, and we’d pass their messages along.

So Canadians got to be good listeners. We could understand people who are very different from each other. That’s because we’re so different ourselves.

We are a minority, a nation of minorities.

Although we’re Earth’s second largest country by land size, we’re one of the smallest in numbers of people, and our people come from all over the world:

Our first peoples came from Asia. The next Canadians came from England and France

After the War we had settlers from all over Europe

And now they’re coming from the Middle East and Africa, Latin America, the Pacific and Asia again—from all over the world.

That makes Canada a microcosm of Earth: a mini United Nations. Like the world, we’re such a mix that no one group makes up even a third of our population.

That means no group is big enough to push the others around. Since we’re all minorities, we can’t even use simple voting to run the country—someone will always be outvoted.

That’s why three out of four Canadians have to agree before we can change the rules for how our country works. For some changes we all have to agree.

Doesn’t that take a long time? We’d have to meet forever to get everyone agreed!

That’s what the word “Canada” means: a meeting place.

Those first huts were a meeting place for tribes from up and down the river.

Then Canada was a meeting place for English and French, who’d been enemies for hundreds of years.

Now it’s for peoples from all over

That’s what we offer the world. We understand its diversity and its divisions because we are the world in so many ways:

We are a people in the making, on a planet that is coming together.

We are peoples in the middle on a planet that is looking for a way through what we thought was a solid wall of ice.

Our northwest passage is learning to live together on the voyage.

We are a nation of minorities in a world of minorities.

If Canada can make it, so can Spaceship Earth.

This is our northwest passage. This is what it means to be Canadian:

To find the best we can bring out in each other on the common voyage of humankind.