The Corner

Canadian Identity

There’s much I agree with here (and wrote as much in my NR cover story on Canada in 2002 and elsewhere) and there’s a bit I disagree with. But I think it’s good enough as a stand alone. From a reader:

Mr Goldberg, I disagree with your Canadian correspondent on multiculturalism. I too am a Canadian, from downtown Toronto. Multiculturalism has been embraced in Canada partly because of the Quebec question. There was no way to fuse Anglo-protestant and French-catholicism into a coherent tradition–so multiculturalism was the only realistic solution. Canada is, as Gertrude Himmelfarb might say, “one nation, two cultures.” (http://selectedinsights.blogspot.com/2006/05/from-globe-four-liberal-contenders.html) Secondly, because Canada is surrounded by two oceans and a southern neighbour whose citizens, shall we say, aren’t clamouring to get jobs in Canada, multiculturalism doesn’t pose an existential threat to the national identity. Canada has an identity and a sense of purpose, but it is defined negatively. Canada is, as SM Lipset put it, a “residue country”, the residue, that is, of the American revolution. Where Americans stood for violent revolution and radical and naive natural rights, Canadians stood for the stability inherent in the constitutional monarchy. America’s “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” is matched and countered by Canada’s “Peace, Order and Good Government.” Complicating the stew of what it means to be a Canadian further is that the ancient sense of meaning which Canada derived from the Crown has been replaced–since Trudeau’s premiership–by one that defines Canada according to the symbols of left-liberalism: suddenly, public health care, nationalist media content regulations, benevolent government, etc have become thoroughly Canadian, and the best way to sink an opponent’s policy proposal is to denounce it as “America-style.” (It’s why, unique among conservatives parties worldwide, the Canadian Conservatives are not the party of patriotism). This gets back to Lipset’s insight–that Canada is, deep at its core, “not American.” But this doesn’t mean that it is hollow to the core. It has an identity, just a confusing one.

 Update: A reader responds: ” Yes, yes. But to your basic jihadist Canada is just that other white meat.”

meat.

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