Saturday, July 1

The In T View: What Does Canada Stand For?

Happy Canada or Dominion Day! Today we are all Canadians.

What does Canada Stand For?


It's a question that came to my mind after reading Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch comments about the recent arrest of the Canadian terrorist plotters. Spencer contended, "the miasma of Canadian anything-goes multiculturalism..." makes homegrown Jihadism in Canada possible now and in the future, because "Canada stands for nothing and can mount resistance to no ideology."

If you asked many Americans, What does Canada stand for, they would probably draw a blank for a moment, shrug their shoulders, and most likely reel off the well-known characteristics of the country. It's cold, they have great hockey players, the famous Canadian beers, pretty Canadian women, nice hunting, and so forth. To most Americans, Canada is just there to the north, quiet and peaceful, and that's the way they like it.

But, to the Canadians themselves, What Does Canada Stand For is a far more important question. It's a possible way of defining a National Identity or a Core Belief System. As an American, I tend to believe our national identity, our set of beliefs that define us as who we are, is much more readily apparent and stronger than those of Canadians. But, I could be wrong. So, I thought it was an interesting quesiton to query Canadian Bloggers and Writers on, to see what they had to say, learn how they felt, and present their responses.

Krista Boryskavich addressed the issue of What Does Canada Stand For? in her June 29 Winnipeg Sun column:

What does Canada stand for? It was a question raised to me in an e-mail from an American blogger, who wrote: "The reason I ask is I read ... comments about the recent arrest of the Canadian terrorist plotters (Robert Spencer at www.jihadwatch.org). Spencer contends 'the miasma of Canadian anything-goes multiculturalism' makes homegrown jihadism in Canada possible now and in the future, because 'Canada stands for nothing and can mount resistance to no ideology.' "If you ask me as an American what the United States stands for, the word that comes to mind is opportunity. But for you as a Canadian, what does Canada stand for?" Ask many non-Canadians what they think of Canada and it's likely they'll list some of the better-known icons, events and personalities that have come to symbolize our nation -- Tim Hortons, hockey, Wayne Gretzky, the beaver, the moose, the maple leaf, the CBC, the CN Tower, Pamela Anderson, the seal hunt, the Calgary Stampede, Celine Dion, and a cold bottle of good old Labatt's Blue.
But the question of what Canada stands for goes much deeper than mere symbolism. It involves a set of shared values that all Canadians can embrace.
So if the United States stands for opportunity, as our American friend suggests, what is the one word that best describes what Canada stands for?
Tolerance? Compromise? Equality? Diversity? Multiculturalism? Bilingualism?
If you think we're a tolerant society, try sitting in a school playground for half an hour, or reading some of the e-mail I receive from readers. It might change your mind.
If you think we're an equal society, I'd suggest you reread my recent column on the different treatment accorded urban and rural folk when it comes to the provision of health-care services. {...}
Perhaps more importantly, is it even possible to narrow the values of a vast, diverse nation to a single word? With the threat of Quebec separation in recent decades, and increasing talk of western alienation in recent years, can we really say that Albertans share the same values as Ontarians, or that Quebecers share the same values as Manitobans?
When I asked readers of my blog (kristasrants.blogspot.com) what their Canada stood for, one anonymous poster responded with: "the right to do what you want -- as long as you don't bring harm to others." {...}
On the right side of the political spectrum, many Canadians value safety and security, prosperity, and individual choice.
And on the left side of the political spectrum, many Canadians value the environment, compassion for those less fortunate, and community.
Combine the best of both worlds, and we just might have a set of shared Canadian values -- perhaps the one word that best describes what Canada stands for is compromise after all.
In reality, though, it's not that simple to narrow the values of a nation into a single word.
Try though I might, I certainly can't do it.
Can you?
What does your Canada stand for?


Krista Boryskavich is a columnist for the Winnipeg Sun, a co-author of The Auto Pact: Investment, Labour and the Wto, and a blogger at
Krista Rants.


Hello Mr. G.,
What does Canada stand for?
The official answer is: peace, order and good government.
Not as dramatic, to be sure, as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, or France's liberte, egalite, fraternite, but a recipe for a quiet and contented society.
If the U.S. in one word is "opportunity," Canada would be "equality."
Whoever the jerk Spencer is and thinks, we do not have anything-goes multiculturalism. But we've probably erred in the past on the "tolerance of differences" aspect. Suspect we'll start to see a Canada-first drive in the (very) near future.) We'll all have mixed feelings about that: good in principle -- but American-style jingoism would be counter to the Canadian nature.
Hopes this helps.
Lynda Hurst


As a columnist and feature writer for the Toronto Star, Lynda Hurst has written on everything from Sharia Law to Adolph Hitler to the Pentagon's use of insects for military purposes. Her subject material includes national and provincial issues, the War on Terror, history, politics, Islam, Iraq, the U.S. Military, and Canadian culture.

Hi,
As with Americans, it depends on which Canadian you're asking.
Cheers,
Rachel


Rachel Marsden is a Canadian Media Personality, a Political Pundit, and a Columnist who has appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, the Dennis Miller program, Fox News, and hosted her own radio show. She has written for the New York Post, the National Post, the Toronto Sun, Front Page Magazine, Newsmax , and many others. Her official site is here.

Good question, and one we ask ourselves constantly. You happen to have hit upon one of the few neo-cons in Canada, so be advised that I am obviously a bit cynical. I think Canada stands for anti-Americanism first and foremost. That is not what Canadians will say: They will say they stand for Progressivism, Tolerance, Multi-culturalism,Equality, Peacekeeping rather than War-fighting, and (drum roll please) Medicare!!! But what really binds us as a nation is that we are not America. What that means in practice is fighting tooth and nail against any presumption of religious groups having any say at all in a public discussion and a show of open contempt for Christianity in the public square, the sanctification of gays and people of colour and those who wear cover, a pathological distaste for military adventures (even though peacekeeping is a non-starter these days)and an inability to take open pride in our heroes, but tons of compassion goes to victims. We are a victim-obsessed society and reluctant to show open admiration for those of high accomplishment. We cut down tall poppies with relish.We have no first amendment and tend to shut down debate when it becomes "offensive". We have a child-like dependence on the government to run our lives. We like that. We are rather infantile politically, passive until things go so bad there is no other choice but to change the government, which recently happened, but it took a scandal of corruption so widespread it couldn't be ignored to do that. We had been drifting with a bad gov't for years, but the complacency level is so high, it is hard to make a dent in the public consciousness. We think we are safe because our country is so big. We have not yet gotten it about terrorism, even though a huge plot was just uncovered here. It will take a while to sink in though, because we can't bear the idea of profiling since it is so un-politically correct. That being said, I would rather live in Canada than in the US, much as I admire America. Canada is in the fortunate position of being able to cherry-pick the qualities and opportunities America offers and to ignore the stuff that is not so palatable - the obsessive consumerism, the obesity, the cultural ignorance of the masses, etc. Canada is still a safer place, in many ways a more civil place, and as for Medicare, it is not perfect and we need the competition of the private sphere (it already exists unofficially), but it brings security to all at a basic level and it means we needn't be obsessed with health insurance as Americans are. I could not feel right about having access to good medical care knowing there are so many poor people who get second class treatment. Hope this helps, Barbara


Barbara Kay is a well respected columnist for the National Post, serves as "the editor in chief of FIRSTFRUITS, an annual anthology of creative writing published by the Jewish Public Library," has written for Front Page magazine, is a longtime book reviewer, and taught "Literature and Composition at Concordia University, Mariannopolis College, Dawson College, and Vanier College for many years."

Mister Ghost, Canada has struggled with its own identity from even before it has been a nation, but if I had to compress what I thought Canada stood for into one word, it would be this: community. Canada throughout its history has been built up by groups of people who have come to this nation, supporting each other as they entered this rugged, somewhat hostile land. From the French Canadians who were largely left to themselves after immigrating to New France, to the United Empire Loyalists who fled American persecution in the wake of the revolution, to Chinese immigrants who built our national transcontinental railway, to the Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans who opened up our West, and to many other groups too numerous to count, our history has been a patchwork quilt of immigrant stories (not to forget the stories of the first nations who occupied the land before us), and by respecting each other's identity, I think we've built up a country wherein we mostly respect each other. It has not been a perfect arrangement. Groups have butted heads in the past and will likely do so again in the future. But we've helped each other; we've pulled together, at Vimy Ridge, on D-Day, in the Liberation of Holland, in Korea, in our peacekeeping efforts, and even in our close and longstanding friendship with the United States of America. I think we've built a beautiful country. I'm proud of my land and my Irish/English/Scottish/Chinese history that I can lay claim to. I strongly dispute Mr. Spencer's comments suggesting that Canadian multiculturalism "makes homegrown Jihadism... possible now and in the future." Isn't it interesting that, in the United Kingdom, which struggles with its influx of immigrants, can point to specific mosques and Imans responsible for the inciteful rhetoric that contributed to the London Underground bombings, and yet we can point to no mosque or Iman where similar rhetoric occurs here? I was not surprised to learn of the arrest of 17 individuals planning attacks on Canadian soil (two of whom went to the United States to purchase weapons for use in those attacks; one could ask who is threatening whom here ). I'd been expecting something like this to happen sooner rather than later because the sad fact is that it has always been possible for a few madmen to make things uncomfortable for the rest of us. But those 17 individuals do not, in any way, speak for the overwhelming majority of the 600,000 Muslim Canadians who are as decent and as law-abiding as I am. The RCMP is on the ball, and doesn't have to deal with the complicated FBI/CIA/DoHS bureaucracy in dealing with our terrorist threats. Americans should take comfort in the fact that we are as ready to handle this sort of attack as they are. But nobody -- American or Canadian -- should forget that these sick individuals remain an aberration rather than the norm. And if Mr. Spencer truly thinks that Canada's multiculturalism is the root of the problem, I simply point out that the United Kingdom and the United States faced down terrorist attacks first. Did the melting pot or assimilation protect them? Anyway, I hope you find this useful. Yours sincerely, James Bow

Renaissance man James Bow is the author of
The Unwritten Girl
and other fiction, a Transit Geek, an Urban Planner, a Doctor Who fan, head of the Alliance of Non Partisan Bloggers in Canada, and blogs at Bow. James Bow.


Hi,
Thanks for writing. My first comment is about Robert Spencer's claim vis-a-vis Canadian multiculturalism. While our federal policy of multiculturalism, popular ideas about multiculturalism or a more pervasive "ideology of multiculturalism" might be called into question I fail to see what it has to do with jihadi religious or political beliefs or their propensity for violence. India, East Timor, Israel, Bali in Indonesia, the UK, Russia, mainland China and the United States are a diverse group of countries with little in common except for the fact they have all been and continue to be targeted by jihadis. Canada's particular political, social and economic make-up therefore seem dramatically less important to our own home-grown jihadis than the ideology they share with their fellow-travellers around the world.

That said, I would say Canada stands for diversity, reasonableness and compromise.

Yours,

Nicholas


Nicholas Packwood is heralded in blogging circles and beyond for his captivating blog, Ghost of a flea, where he recieves "love and hugs"
from Kylie Minogue, functions as "Anthropologist to the Stars", and was voted the Best Culture Blog in Canada in 2005.


Hello, and thank you for your question.
What does Canada stand for? It’s not an easy question to answer. We too believe in opportunity, although I don’t think that opportunity is what Canadians would say characterizes them. In truth, as with any free society, it is impossible to point one’s finger on one or two beliefs that all or most Canadians identify with. I’m not trying to dodge the question – just asking in return if such a question is fair and really answerable.
Having written this, I think that you have raised some important issues regarding Canada’s overt policy of multiculturalism, although you may be surprised to learn that I do not agree with those who assert that such a policy leads to the balkanization of society. Quite the opposite, enforced multiculturalism has resulted in a great conformity of ideas, though not practices. I refer you to a speech I delivered at Simon Fraser University that touches on this subject http://www.canadianvalues.ca/issues.aspx?aid=11.

Regarding Moslem extremists living in and operating out of Canada, this has been a problem that I have been intimately involved in for several years. I think that Canadians are naïve and self-righteous when it comes to the war on terror which leads, inevitably, to lax security. I don’t sense that the recent arrests were of sufficient magnitude to really change the minds of the general public even if it did serve as a wake up call to some. In this, though, I’m not sure that Canada and Canadians are much different that other much of western society including in the United States. May I refer you to a few interesting op-ed pieces on this subject on our website:
http://www.canadianvalues.ca/issues.aspx?aid=169,
http://www.canadianvalues.ca/issues.aspx?aid=178
http://www.canadianvalues.ca/issues.aspx?aid=173
http://www.canadianvalues.ca/issues.aspx?aid=183
http://www.canadianvalues.ca/issues.aspx?aid=194
I don’t know if I’ve been of much help. Let me know if you want or need more...
Joseph C. Ben-Ami


Joseph C. Ben-Ami is the Executive Director of the Institute for Canadian Values, and a "Senior Fellow specializing in Religion, Law and Society as well as Human Rights and Democratic Development." Ben-Ami is "the former Director of Government Relations and Diplomatic Affairs for the Jewish human rights organization, B’nai Brith Canada." And also serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation.


Uh ....... that's a difficult question. Canadians have identity issues.
1. We are a country of many distinct regions. Quebcers are not Albertans are not Newfoundlanders etc.
2. Then there's our multi-culti tradition. We are not so much a melting pot as an exotic stew with many different tastes and textures.
3. Because we are next to the giant, with many of the same values, a common language, and the spillover culture and media, many Canadians try to define themselves as not being Americans.
4. But basically most of us stand for socialized medicine and the notion, fantastic or not, that we are a kindler, gentler and just society.

Antonia Zerbisias
Media Columnist/Bloggerista
The Toronto Star


Born in Montreal, Antonia Zerbisias has had a long career as a Media Critic and Columnist for the Toronto Star, as well as serving as a TV host and reporter for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). In 1996, Antonia won the "National Newspaper Award for critical writing for her columns about magazines." Zerbisas currently blogs at Azerbic.


Canada is politically correct, inoffensive and apathetic to the point of offending anyone with half a brain and a healthy dose of conservatism.
Canada could be and should be a great nation - tolerant and fair without caving into the ridiculous, proud and dignified without being arrogant, moderate and gentle without being pussies.
-Lydia Lovric


Lydia Lovric has been a political firebrand from an early age, writing for the Calgary Herald, Montreal Gazette, Toronto Star, and Globe and Mail. Currently, she is a columnist at the Winnipeg Sun, a contributor to the Vancouver Province, and is frequently heard and seen on such programs as the John Oakley Show (MOJO 640), Adler On Line (CJOB - Winnipeg), and the Michael Coren Show (CTS TV), as well as hosting her own show, the "Sunday Brunch" on AM 900 CHML. Her website is here.


Hi Mister Ghost:
I'd say Canada stands for Decency and Civility, two qualities becoming increasingly rare in our world. A lot of people might scorn at the idea of what Canada stands for, but I believe these are worthy qualities once were prized by gentlemen above all. Now what do gentlemen stand for these days? Regards,
Salim


Salim Mansur, BA, MA, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario. A writer, his column appears at London Free Press alternate Wednesdays, and the Toronto Sun on Thursdays... Salim is a member of the Board of Directors for the Center for Islamic Pluralism based in Washington, D.C., a Senior Fellow with the Canadian Coalition for Democracies, and an academic-consultant with the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C...


...I'm almost sorry that you used the word "opportunity" to describe America as that is the word that I would have used to describe Canada. The difference is that Canada is a land of opportunity where diversity (at least for the time being) is not only tolerated, but accepted and celebrated, it is what makes us what we are.... the difference between the melting pot and multicultural concepts. We don't believe that everybody needs to conform to some ridgid national identity criteria in order to be "Canadian". Unfortunately, in light of recent developments, that concept may be in for a bit of a rough ride. Hopefully we will survive the calls of those who are afraid of whatever boogy-man they think is hiding in the closet and want people of other languages, cultures, or religions, to toe what they want to define as the "Canadian National Line". Hope this is what you were looking for Marcel


Marcel Mason, married to an Aboriginal Inuk woman, is a father of four, a network administrator for a Canadian National Aboriginal Administration, a member of the
Progressive Bloggers
, and can be found at Stageleft: Life on the left side.



Well that is a question Canadians have been trying to answer for hundreds of years. In the mid-twentieth century, “Canadian identity” became an obsession. Our writers and artists all debated it, esp. after Margaret Atwood’s famous book, Survival. She maintained that Canada had a “fortress” mentality, that we were haunted by the pioneer experience of Canada as cold, dark and frightening.

The areas of Canada are very distinct, just as the different regions of the USA are. But here in Toronto, the media and university elites as well as the politicians all hold to a very liberal, 1960s, 1970s view of Canada, mostly out of misplaced nostalgia. They believe everything Pierre Trudeau told them: that the French and English in Canada were equally important; that multiculturalism and socialism were the way of the future. If you dare challenge these views in public, your career in any of these fields, or even your chances of getting invited to a party, are greatly reduced...

More than anything else, Canadians define themselves in this way:

“We are not Americans.”

For all their pretend politeness and tolerance, most Canadians (except me and about 100 others!) hate Americans with a passion you cannot fathom. This predates George Bush — I was born in 1964 and heard it all my life. Americans are patriotic? Then we will look down on patriotism. Americans have a huge army; very well, we will reduce ours to a skeleton force. Americans don’t have “free” “health” “care” and we do, so we are superior (no matter than a Canadian has to wait almost two years for some routine operations that an American would get in a week). Imagine: Americans are proud of their inventions and their triumphs on the battlefield. We Canadians are most proud of a government entitlement that doesn’t even work anymore!

This smug bigotry is the only acceptable one in polite Canadian society. Americans are “fat, stupid, greedy, violent and evil.” My fellow Canadians consider this a sophisticated stance. Alas, they don’t realize how petty and jealous they appear. If America does indeed represent “opportunity” -- and I agree with you that it does — that is exactly what Canadians hate about it. They like their government run lives, no matter that our disposable income is 30% less than an American’s and our taxes are higher. Success is not something most Canadians admire. “Just keep your nose clean and one day you’ll win the lottery — or retire”. Very sad.

I would love to get out of here tomorrow, but alas, Green Cards are impossible to get :-)


Toronto's Kathy Shaidle is an award winning writer, author, and editor who has worked and written for Media and Corporate clients such as the Dallas Morning News, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the American Spectator, the Catholic Register (where she was a Contributing Editor), the Shopping Channel, the United Way, the Book Promoters Association of Canada, among others. In her blog, Relapsed Catholic, Kathy merges Pop Culture, religion, politics, life experiences, and conservatism in a grand syncretismic tour of her psyche.


Ha!! Mister Ghost. You have hit the nail on the head. We are a nation of the confused and muddled and we seem to like it that way.

It has to do with our geography. We are separated by geographic featues that make us very regional-centric. We also have huge disparities in population between the regions which makes for unequal representation in our parliament and a constitution that doesn't adequately address that disparity.

We've also got the French/English albatross keeping us embroiled in collective handwringing, fretting and finger pointing. Some of us identify ourselves by juxtapostion with the US, which expresses itself as: "The US is bad, therefore in order for us to be good, we have to bash everything American."

We're basically very worried about being swallowed up by the US, which causes us to do a lot of stupid things, like creating the CBC and the National Film Board which were originally intended to unite Canadians and foster a common culture, but they've become little more than propaganda tools for the left of centre view.

But when it comes right down to it, I think what defines us, or, to put it in your terms, what we stand for, what unites us, is our hatred of Toronto. HAhhahahaahahaha.

Seriously, we don't go into patriotism in a big way, but I do think we like to be proud of what we can do on the international stage, but we haven't done too well in that arena for quite a while. We also take great pride in being self-effacing. Maybe the second gets in the way of the first. I don't know.


Louise S. is a librarian in Western Canada, a frequent commenter on Iraqi Blogs, a strong proponent of a democratized Middle East, and a Blogger at the highly thought-of SEARCH, and Stubble Jumping Redneck.



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