A critical look at Canada 150: Eva Patenaude

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Canada-150-Feature-TitleWe asked community leaders and educators about Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary, to reflect on this country’s present, past, and future.

Eva Patenaude | Media and Events Coordinator at the Victoria Pride Society

The Martlet: What does it mean to you to be a Canadian?

That is really a tough one. For me on a personal level, it’s living in a place where I have the ability to work with others to influence policy here. I do feel that people have the ability to influence laws and policies put into place, which I think is really important. By no means do I think Canada’s perfect, there’s a lot that I do have issues with, but I also feel that I do have the freedom to voice that, and to do what I can to make a difference.

I feel like the legalization of marijuana is a really great example of that, because it’s something that the people want, and so the government is responding in that way. And maybe not in a way that a lot of people are happy with, but at least it’s something. I do believe positive change takes time, so I’m pretty patient with this stuff.

What does a Canadian identity look like?

I really honestly associate being Canadian with having the freedom to be who I want to be, and go after the things that I want to go after, which is really important in the queer community. You know, it’s different across Canada. I feel we’re very lucky in Victoria specifically, that it’s a very, very inclusive environment here, and people are free to express their gender, their sexuality, who they are as an individual in the way that they’re most comfortable with, and that’s embraced here a lot more than it is in a lot of other places. And I feel that there’s a lot of places in Canada that are really good for that, but of course, it’s not perfect everywhere. So as far as a Canadian identity goes, it is going to be very different from coast to coast, for individuals. Maybe that’s what Canadian identity is – the freedom to be an individual.

In the context of your work, what does Canada 150 mean to you?

For my work with Pride Society, it’s interesting because I’ve talked to some friends outside the [queer] community who find that people are really amped up on the Canada 150 – they feel like it’s especially exciting for them this year, and hearing that from other people is really interesting for me, because I’m like, ‘wow, we definitely run in different circles,’ because not that I feel that people in the community are anti-Canada by any means, but it’s definitely this ‘yeah it’s cool, but at the same time, there’s all this history of, you know, this land doesn’t belong to us but we’re celebrating it’ kind of thing. And so I think because within the queer community, people are very politically-mindful of things like that, it’s not as much of a hurrah, and I think the fact that when you have Drag Ball on Canada Day – people are stoked for Drag Ball, and they’re stoked for the Pride kickoff, and you don’t hear about the Canada Day excitement quite as much.

I think people do definitely have an appreciation for the fact that here in Canada, we are free to be ourselves, but there seems to be a lot of focus on the things that we still have to work on as well . . . 

I myself have only been out for three years, so I can’t even really compare it for what it’s been like for people five, ten years ago. You know, generally speaking, obviously, there’s a lot less harassment than there would have been. I think it’s getting better all the time, but of course, people still experience things for sure. I don’t get too much harassment, but I’ve gotten a comment here and there, and have had cab drivers refuse me service after kissing a girl goodnight and stuff like that. So by no means, it’s not perfect, but I do feel that we’re always moving forward so I feel good about the direction we’re heading in. I know a lot of people tend to get bogged down by, you know, what we still have to accomplish, but I feel as long as we’re moving forward, we can celebrate the wins and just focused on what we still need to do.

I mean obviously, the passing of Bill C-16 is pretty huge, too . . . I know for a fact people will be really celebrating that this Pride, and so I think that’s going to be a big deal for people in the community, you know, and their feeling towards the country they’re living in.

What would you like to see Canada be like in the next 150 years?

Personally, I would like to see gender not existing anymore. I would like people to be seen as individuals first, before being seen as man or woman, or straight or gay, or even what colour they are, or anything. I just want people to be seen for who they are, and be allowed to pursue their passions regardless of whether or not it’s something you would expect someone who looks that way to do.

I just really see Canada moving in a direction of protecting people’s individuality and freedoms, and that makes me feel good about where I live, for sure.

To read more interviews from the feature, click here