06/27/2017 11:39 EDT | Updated 06/06/2018 11:00 EDT

I Feel More Torontonian Than I Do Canadian


HuffPost Canada

It'll likely come as no surprise to Canadians that Torontonians often feel like they live in their own country altogether.

I know I do.

I also know this isn't original. It's probably the case for every city dweller who looks at aspects of their country they don't identify with and thinks, 'That's not where I live.'

In a country with only a few major cities, however, it feels even more important to distinguish the urban life I know so well from the stereotypical view of what it means to be Canadian.

I'm a third-generation Torontonian. Three of my four grandparents were born in this city (the fourth came here when she was three months old), and I was raised to appreciate every corner of it, from the jaw-dropping Scarborough Bluffs to the smells and sounds of downtown's Chinatown.

Rebecca Zamon's great-grandfather, Morris Zamosky, selling chickens on Kensington Ave.

After each of my ancestors arrived here from Poland, a country not exactly known for treating their Jewish citizens particularly well in the early 1900s, my great-grandparents lived in Kensington Market, the de facto beating heart of the city. It was once the place for immigrants starting out, and it's now a tableau of every culture that has come and gone through it, from Latin Americans to hipsters.

My weekends as a kid were spent in the car with my parents, driving from our North York suburb to the houses they'd grown up in downtown, going on hikes in parks that I now recognize as Edwards Gardens and the Betty Sutherland Trail, and eating food from every country I could imagine, because it was so readily available to us.

My century-long heritage runs deep, and it's evidenced in my affinity for Toronto-themed clothing, my adoration for the old-school streetcars and the fact that my son and I are literally poster children for the library.

I take it personally every time my city is impressive (hey there, Nuit Blanche and TIFF) and on the flip-side, embarrassing (Who the hell throws beer cans onto a baseball field?).

I was taught from a young age that this is the greatest city in the world, because its corners reflect every part of the globe.

Provided by Rebecca Zamon

Rebecca Zamon (right) and her sister at Ontario Place, circa. 1985.

But it's far from some perfect utopia where people come from everywhere and live happily ever after. You might notice, for example, that my last name isn't Zamosky, but a close facsimile. That's thanks to the rampant anti-Semitism that swept the city throughout the 1930s and '40s, forcing people to Anglicize their names in an attempt to pass.

And it's not as though I fool myself into believing everything is great now, either. There are discriminatory incidents recorded every day, from white people demanding they only want to see white doctors to anti-gay graffiti plastered on garages.

Where I find solace, however, is in the responses to these incidents, the voices that are so much louder than the bigots, who decry these actions and work to make things better. They're continually improving and changing Toronto, just like our country itself.

This is the greatest city in the world, because its corners reflect every part of the globe.

And speaking of which, all of this is not to say that I don't scream in patriotic glee when Canada wins at the Olympics or, hell, when we get named one of the safest countries in the world. Toronto couldn't be Toronto without the backing of an incredible country like Canada.

But the stereotypical images of Canadians meant to represent who we are — the lumberjack, the nature lover, the meek, apologetic mouse — just don't resonate with me as a Torontonian.

Perhaps it's time that the image of Canada starts to evolve from the Tim Hortons-drinking, double-denim-wearing hockey lover to something that parallels the ones I think of when it comes to Toronto — the sophisticated, curious and passionate citizen who feels as comfortable with their own background as they do with that of their neighbours'.

Or better yet, it's about both, and everything in between.

But that isn't changing just yet (as these many reports written around Canada 150 are demonstrating far too well). So right now, when it comes to my identity, Toronto comes before "Canada."

And I'm sorry if that offends you.

After all, I'm Canadian enough to apologize for it — but I'm Torontonian enough to not back down.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook

Also on HuffPost: