Happy Birthday, Canada!

You have come into your own these past 141 years, warmly regarded as a place of strong values, freedom and a sense of community taking care of community.

Canada, you have never forgotten that you were born of the world. You have shed blood in wars that beat back that, which we as a nation, despise. Elder states embroiled in centuries-long conflicts never had to worry about its former citizens, and now Canadians, forsaking them in their hour of need.

From those already here to those who needed salvation or opportunity, your citizens have never been asked to forget their roots.

As wonderful as you are and as accepting as you are, I feel comfortable telling you I do not consider myself a Canadian … first.

I consider myself a Yukoner first … a Whitehorsian second and then a Canadian.

Canada, you are just too big and too diverse (which, of course, is what makes you wonderful) for me to associate with.

I have as much in common with a Maritimer as I do with an Australian.

When I think of Canada, I do not think of it ending at the edges of the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean and the Beaufort Sea and the 60th Parallel. That’s just the land we sit on. No, I think of Canada as an idea.

It is that idea that brings people to our shores and the admiration of the world. True. But these are ideals that are available to the entire world and being Canadian just means we get to live them.

I choose to identify myself as a Yukoner, first, because I can. My rights and freedom are so secure, I can take them for granted – forget them even – just as I often forget I am the son of Ron and Grace Hookey.

Being a Yukoner, however, is an everyday experience that lends me peace of mind and informs the recreational and vocational choices I make every day.

Yukoners are my family. For instance, although I have never met her, I am tremendously proud of Kim Barlow and the success she has had. Shania Twain? Not so much.

When I talk to people from Spain or Colombia, I don’t tell them about the beautiful Canadian forests and rivers. Instead, I tell them about the beautiful Yukon forests and rivers.

And I don’t know how to act like a Canadian (besides apologizing a lot and asking Americans if they like us), but I do know how to act like a Yukoner.

I wear the Carhartt’s … not farm grade, mind, but the well-constructed yet not-unstylish pants and jackets.

I take pride in being average, just one of the guys … a decidedly Yukon trait.

I dislike crowds. I am offended at being asked to stand in a line. I am left-wing and yet I have right-wing friends. I denounce box stores and yet I shop at Wal-Mart.

And I tend to look at world events and frame them as a question of how it affects the Yukon.

Whitehorse? Sorry, that is just the city I live in. It is a wonderful place with the second-most attractive downtown I have ever seen (sorry, but you have to admit that Lindsay, Ontario has one sweet downtown) but it doesn’t give me an identity.

So, Canada, just as my parents let me go to be my own man, allow me to call myself a Yukoner first.