This is our life. No dress rehearsal.

Sylvia: Change, but don't. Hug a tree.

Sylvia Warkentin is the second of the Warkentin family in the series and travelled almost 'coast to coast to coast'

My Canada Project

Duleepa Wijayawardhana

February 20, 2017

This small project has encouraged families to respond about each individual’s views on Canada and Sylvia Warkentin is the second of the Warkentin family in the series (read Erwin Warkentin with “Colonialist Amnesia: The myth of the two founding nations”)

Q. Tell me bit about yourself and your life in Canada?

I am a first generation Canadian and have always considered myself a “hyphenated” Canadian. As recent immigrants from Germany when I was born, my parents were of two worlds, and they would pass that multiple identity on to me. Although they had left Germany, they had also brought it with them and so I was raised in a country within a country with my parents trying to re-create the life that was familiar to them. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not so much.

I currently reside in a small town in Newfoundland but have lived in four other provinces. However, I consider myself a prairie kid at heart. Along with the moves came various careers which including raising two wonderful kids who have successfully made their own way in this world. As they say in Newfoundland-speak, “what am I at now?” I take courses at Memorial University of Newfoundland for the fun of it, work as a tour guide (both English and German) during cruise ship season, volunteer with the East Coast Trail Committee, hug trees, travel, and otherwise doing whatever suits my fancy any particular day/week.

Q. When you think about being Canadian what does it mean for you?

I like the fact that we are a mosaic as opposed to the melting pot that the U.S. is often described. Compared to them we are still a young country, compared to most countries in the world we are a “baby country.” We are still figuring things out, learning, growing, making mistakes and trying again. But we’re doing this together; all of us, with our different backgrounds bring something to the table that makes us a unique Canadian.

Q. What makes you happy about Canada? Where do you feel the happiest in Canada?

I love, love, love our diversity. Not just in people but in geography. I have literally travelled, (read: driven), from coast to coast and almost coast. From Nanimo BC, to Cape Spear NL, from Kenora ON to Ft. Resolution NT, each corner is stunning and beautiful and begs to be explored. I am happiest when I am out experiencing nature. Where doesn’t matter, whether its burning my feet on the white sands of Winnipeg Beach, fishing Reed Lake in northern Manitoba, skiing in Jasper, or hiking the Father Troy Trail in Torbay NL. ALL of it is my happy place.

Q. What frustrates you about Canada?

As much as we are this large varying country, if you don’t live in the centre of it, the greater Toronto area, you/I/we are largely ignored. “Our” media is centred there and the stories and reporting have a definite central Canadian perspective. If it’s not happening in Toronto, it’s not happening. The east coast, particularly Newfoundland, gets no respect, neither do the prairies. No, we do not, as we are so often accused of, have an inferiority complex, it’s that Canada is too Toronto-centric.

Q. Where would you like Canada to be in 25 years when we celebrate 175?

Change, but don’t. I like the way Canada is, but it needs to grow up too. Stay welcoming, stay diverse but hopefully in 25 years we will have learned to listen to each other better.

Q. If you have one piece of advice to give someone being born in Canada today, what would it be?

Get out there and enjoy it. Travel the ribbons of highways. Get out of the car in small towns and meet the people, enjoy their hospitality, hug a tree. Repeat.

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