Is Canada worth saving? This question is incomplete. One must add to this question and ask: “Worth saving from what?” It seems to me that the greatest danger facing Canada today is its disappearance as a sovereign state due to that process known as globalization. For Canada, “globalization” really means its impending absorption, economically, politically, and culturally, into the United States. Thus, the more appropriate question becomes: “Is Canada worth saving as an independent, sovereign state in North America?”
Canada is a relatively young country by world standards. During its 133 years of existence, Canada has successfully developed into and remained an example of relatively peaceful and prosperous multiculturalism. Unlike the American “melting pot”, the Canadian “mosaic” has demonstrated to the world that it is possible for different peoples, races, and ethnicities to not only live together, but to thrive together.
The majority of the world sees Canada as a tolerant, compassionate, and just society. A study done in the 1970s (Lyon, P.V. and B.W. Tomlin, 1979, p. 83) showed the Canadian experiment in diversity to be widely recognized and admired. Foreigners perceived countries acting “like Canada” to be generous, modest, and peace-promoters. Countries acting “unlike Canada” were described as being selfish, irrational, and expansionist or violent.
Throughout much of its short history, a considerable amount of the Canadian identity has been formed as a result of resistance to American Manifest Destiny. Indeed, the CPR was built not only to open up and settle the West, but also to establish an East-West link as a foil to perceived American imperial ambitions toward Western Canada. We Canadians view our land differently than do the Americans and Europeans. As Salutin (Salutin, 1991, p. 101) says: “Americans conquer their country. Europeans civilize theirs. Canadians confront the land with admiration and anxiety.”
A result of this is that the word “Canada” tends to evoke an image of land rather than people. For example, it does not create in the mind’s eye a national figure such as Uncle Sam. This emphasis upon `place’ instead of `people’ remains a large part of the Canadian psyche and can be seen in a comparison between American (e.g. Rockwell) and Canadian (e.g. Carr) popular art. As well, Canadian literature deals with the issues of exploration, settlement, and the struggle between people and environment (Berton and Mowat), whereas American literature tends to focus on the relationships between peoples (Alcott, Twain).
It is of equal interest to note that Canada and the U.S. have different conceptions of heroism. Whereas most U.S. heroes have almost been military leaders (e.g. Patton, MacArthur) or political leaders during time of war (e.g. Washington, Lincoln, Eisenhower), national heroes in Canada have almost always been explorers (de Champlain, Cartier, Fraser).
An important outcome of these different cultural viewpoints are differences in the way we view our societies in general. For example: (a) the revolutionary and individualistic tradition of the U.S. versus the counter-revolutionary and communal tradition of Canada; (b) the U.S. `rags-to-riches’ myth (the American Dream) versus the Canadian theme of surviving diversity and; (c) the U.S. promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness versus the Canadian bargain of peace, order, and good government.
George Grant, in his seminal, but sad Lament for a Nation, concluded that (Grant, G., 1970, p. 4): “To be Canadian was to build, along with the French, a more ordered and stable society than the liberal experiment in the United States.”
A result is a Canadian system of values demonstrably different from those of the U.S. In comparison with Americans, we Canadians really do fit our international image. We are (except, perhaps, when playing hockey) courteous, non-violent, and broad-minded.
Is Canada worth saving? The answer must be an unconditionally and resounding YES! The Canadian experiment in tolerance, fairness, and compassion is an example for the world. Its loss would, in the truest sense of the word, be tragic. In a world increasingly divided by ethnic, religious and racial prejudices, Canada continues to celebrate and revel in diversity. This is a Canadian contribution to the human community that we must not allow to be destroyed.
Canada is worth saving so as to preserve the sacrifices made by the early settlers. For Canada to disappear would be to render in vain the courage, sacrifice and perseverance of our forefathers. The history of heroism embodied in the discovery and settlement of Canada was eloquently described by the Hon. Lieutenant-Colonel the Reverend George Oliver Fallis, in his address at the Dedication of the Vimy Memorial (arguably Canada’s most famous overseas monument) in July 1936. Fallis described Canada as having been settled by: ” … goodly men and women (who) crossed the seas, arrived in Canada, hewed down the forests, built their log cabins, erected their school-houses, colleges, universities and churches, educated their children in wisdom, manners and morals … developed industry and commerce, built great railways, mined precious metals, erected mills, and fished the depths of the seas … explored the great West, travelling by ox-cart into a land they knew not, transforming the unshorn fields of the prairies into a land of golden grain … faced the Rocky Mountains, scaled snow-capped peaks, forded turbulent rivers … passed through narrow defiles of yawning canyons … carved out the wilderness of native land filled with beauty and plenty, builded a goodly nation, pursuing peace, loving industry, jealous of none and respectful of all.”
These words have particular meaning for me as I am the descendent of a U.E.L. and can trace my ancestry in Canada back to 1794. As a young Canadian woman about to enter my final year of high school, I am distraught at the prospect of Canada disappearing as a sovereign state. Like my ancestors who fled the U.S. after the American Revolution, I, too, have no desire to be a citizen of the United States. There can be no more important goal for my generation than the fight to save Canada.