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What does it mean to be Canadian?

Happy Canada Day! Bonne Fête du Canada!

On this Canada Day, I thought of no better question to ask myself than:  “What does it mean to be Canadian”?

For nearly a decade, I have served as CEO & CTO at OpenText, Canada’s largest software company and member of the TSX-60.  It is and will always be the greatest professional honour of my life, because of the people.

I have traveled coast to coast, and yes, to coast in Canada:  Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Waterloo, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, Saint John, and Saint John’s.  And yet it seems the journey is always new, and one keeps discovering places for the first time.

Canada is a beacon for being a champion of liberal democracy. Though a Canadian will never say this to you, as they are too humble to do so, their identity centers on multiculturalism. They have proudly carved this identity out of a harsh wilderness, and they fiercely protect it as part of their Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Canadians are not defined by the colour of their skin, their language, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation, or background. Rather, Canada is defined by its values.

Canada has its past, as does America.  Both countries need to reconcile with its First Nations, its indigenous people.  That reconciliation will be guided by its values.

I was holding a meeting a few years ago, the topic of which has faded, but the experience is crystal clear.  There was a Vancouverite, Calgarian, Ontarian, Quebecois, and a Nova Scotian.  They talked about their vast differences, but what I saw was an amazing team that is value-based, high on collaboration and low on BS. They played the game hard, even checked each other into the boards occasionally, but after the meeting, we all went out for a beer.

I asked my leadership team this week, what does being Canadian mean to them. Here are the exact words they used, unedited:  diversity, passion, fight for what is right, punch above our weight, tolerant, wolf in a sheep’s clothes, value-based, humble, sports fans, collaboration, earnest, respected, pragmatic, genuine, compassionate.

One mentioned that 1812 thingy ;) and of course, poutine, Timmies, ice hockey, beavertails.

It is no surprise that Canada ranks #1 for Quality of Life, and this is beautiful to me.

As an American leading a Canadian company, I am greatly humbled by you welcoming me into your home, your culture, and your way of life.

So, a very Happy Canada Day, Bonne Fête du Canada, from the guy who once interviewed the Great One, Wayne Gretzky.

Mark Barrenechea

Mark J. Barrenechea is OpenText's Vice Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer. A prominent thought leader, he has extensive experience in information technology and his vision is to enable the digital world to help transform organizations.

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