Many people have lamented that Canada has no identity of its own. They believe that we have done nothing for ourselves; that we have only stolen the works of others. That is, in many ways, true. Canada has been built upon the fragments of other cultures, carried to us on various winds of hope and desperation; faith and folly. However, it is nothing to be ashamed of — rather, it is a primary strength that Canadians have drawn upon, and forged into a country that is multifaceted, enduring, and beautiful. By taking the best of both worlds, we have gained the respect of the world, and the admiration of many. However, there is always a danger in having too much of a good thing, and recently Canada has begun the march towards that abyss. In order to remain balanced and varied, too much can not be pulled from any one culture — in this case, the United States. To do so risks submerging all the others, and losing the diversity from which we draw our strength. We cannot allow that to happen. Canada has so much to offer the world, as it stands.
It is Canada’s cultural mix that enables us to avoid prejudice and bigotry. Throughout our history, various cultures in Canada have balanced each other, and impeded us from falling into too narrow a mind-set. In Canada’s early days, while we were still a colony of Britain, that enabled us to serve as a refuge for black people escaping from slavery in the United States. During the Cold War, Canada’s inherent diversity also prevented us from succumbing to the Red Scare, which was at the time ravaging our neighbour to the south. The one major failure Canada has had, one moment of weakness wherein we did surrender to racism, was during World War II, when we held thousands of innocent Japanese in internment camps for years. There was no excuse for what we did, and Canada has not tried to make one. All that we can do is remember, and try our best to make sure that it never happens again — either in Canada, or anywhere else.
Over decades, Canada’s deeds have shaped the world’s opinion of us. People will listen to what Canada has to say, even though we don’t have enormous might — military or economic. We have built for ourselves a reputation of justice, innovation, and kindness — that is enough. We have never been afraid to speak out against injustice, or inhumanity. We have always championed human rights, and the decency of the common man. For example, right now one of our retired generals is in Northern Ireland, playing an invaluable role in their peace process as they attempt to restore harmony and order to a troubled land. In both conventional and nuclear weapon disarmament, Canada is recognized as a leader. We introduced and brought to a successful conclusion the Land Mine Treaty, and, in addition, are avidly pursuing both the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and the possibility of burning surplus weapons-grade plutonium from both the United States and Russia in our nuclear reactors. Finally, charity has always been a trait that has defined Canada. During the Kosovo crisis, Canada was quick to offer to house refugees escaping from a devastated land. Even when refugees arrive illegally, such as was the case with the recent boat-loads of smuggled Chinese off the west coast, they are given a fair hearing by the Canadian government. Canada holds to its ideals, always. That lends our nation strength, by giving us a common focus, and thereby unity.
Today Canada faces a crisis of identity. Even our own people don’t realize just what is at stake if our multiculturalism fails us; if we allow ourselves to be absorbed by the United States. All of our power is based in our multiculturalism. It is what has allowed us to survive and prosper in the modern world — without military might, without overwhelming population, and without especially favourable circumstances. If we are absorbed by the U.S., what do we gain? A heartless medical system? In many ways, a lower standard of living? Right now, we have the respect of the world, a caring social security net, and a rich history — what could the U.S. possibly give us? Economic might? Perhaps. But at what price? We should remember the old adage “look before you leap.” Our feet have already left the ground, but we haven’t even opened our eyes yet.