Maybe, but, he also asks,"Do you suppose that—15,330 times in thirty-four years—strangers will ask an indisputably white Canadian with a traditional Anglo-Canadian accent where he is from, where he was born, or where his parents were born?"
This sticks in my throat. As an "an indisputably white Canadian with a traditional Anglo-Canadian accent" I get asked this fairly often. To be fair, I usually interpret the question as being in regards to "where in Canada" (it sometimes seems few residents of Victoria were actually born here) but every few years, the question is raised on the Census and I always want to declare my heritage as "Canadian" because I was born here, as was my Father, as was my maternal Grandmother. Unfortunately our multiculturally-obsessed federal government wants to crow about the blend of cultures, and so demands that I actually declare my ancestry as non-Canadian:
QUESTION 17 – Ethnic origin (from the 2001 Census guide - pdf)
This question refers to the ethnic or cultural origins of a person’s ancestors.An ancestor is someone from whom a person is descended and is usually more distant than a grandparent. Other than Aboriginal persons, most people can trace their origins to their ancestors who first came to this continent.
and here's why:
Question 17 provides information about the ethnic and cultural diversity of
Canada’s population. This information is used to administer the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. It is also used extensively by ethnic and cultural associations, as well as by agencies and researchers, for activities such as health promotion, communications and marketing.
Oh, fantastic! I have to make up or amalgamate my ancestry to help the government with their marketing! And, I see that they are hiring for the 2006 Census -- and Question 17 still exists (though I no longer have to amalgamate, and I could potentially say "Rigel 7" or perhaps "Ferengi" because the format is unstructured):
The census has collected information on the ancestral origins of the population for over 100 years to capture the composition of Canada's diverse population.
17. What were the ethnic or cultural origins of this person's ancestors?
An ancestor is usually more distant than a grandparent.
For example, Canadian, English, French, Chinese, Italian, German, Scottish, East Indian, Irish, Cree, Mi'kmaq (Micmac), Métis, Inuit (Eskimo), Ukrainian, Dutch, Filipino, Polish, Portuguese, Jewish, Greek, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Chilean, Salvadorean, Somali, etc.
Specify as many origins as applicable using capital letters.
At any rate, I have a few months to think about a heritage. Rest assured it will be a creative one.
In the meantime, I have this to say to Mr. Hill: Yes, "Where are you from?" is a patently stupid question and, unless you have a personal friendship with the person you are asking, it's akin to asking "Are you gay?" or even asking a woman you don't know, "When is the baby due?" -- because they might just be overweight. Most often though, if you are friends, you don't have to ask, these things come out in conversation.
I can't pretend that I don't ask these and other questions in my head -- I do! And I am curious sometimes. I also think some people are just plain stupid and/or rude. My 5 year old has started to point out obvious physical features (like "That lady is bald!" or "He has girl hair!") so we have been working on "manners." Apparently, many parents don't take the time for such instruction.
TAGS: rant, heritage, ancestry, race, rudeness.