Thursday, January 29, 2015


The second largest land-mass on Earth, in terms of countries (only Russia is larger), and yet, proportionately, one of its least populated regions, mostly because lakes, mountains and icy glaciers make most of it uninhabitable. 90% of the population live within 150 miles of the US border, and it is often very hard to distinguish a Canadian from an American city. Among the highest levels of income in the world, it is also the most multi-cultural of countries, in the sense that it actually welcomes immigrants, and encourages them to integrate (which is to stay as who they are) rather than to assimilate (which is to become whatever the current definition of "being one of us" might be).

National government is also divested down to state government as in the US, with cities and towns providing further levels of aspiring democracy. The principal divisions are between the French and English speaking parts, with both languages official and required, though no one outside Quebec actually uses French, and what the Quebecois call French might have been understood in 16th century Marseilles but is virtually incomprehensible to a 21st century Parisian.

Inside Quebec the argument for a separate country goes on, though it is as likely to happen as Scottish independence, or for that matter Catalan or Breton. Canadians do not much like war, but will send small numbers of troops as peacekeepers to support the UN. They do like oil and other minerals however, and have staked out parts of the Arctic, much to the discontent of the Russians and the Scandinavians, who were hoping to get there first.

Canada has the important distinction that, over the last fifty years, it has produced Glenn Gould, the Group of Seven artists, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan’s backing group The Band, as well as Margaret Attwood, Robertson Davies, Mordechai Richler, Rohinton Mistry, Yann Martel, Alice Munro, Saul Bellow - though most Americans think he was American. And then there is Justin Trudeau, elected Prime Minister in October 2015, following in the footsteps of père Pierre, equalising his Cabinet men to women, though when he insists that he will represent all Canadians, I wonder if the members of the First Nations are convinced that he really does mean all Canadians.

Because, yes, I may have forgotten to say something specific about the First Nations – the Mississauga and the Okanagan and the… hundreds, literally hundreds of aboriginal clans and tribes? I may have forgotten… but really, it’s just that, in Canada, you don’t make that kind of distinction any more. Mississauga, Scandinavia, Korea, Athens… people have ancestry, and it’s interesting to hear the tales. Beyond that the six hundred and thirty-four clans of the First Nations have the Statement of Reconciliation, declared in 1998; and Canada is ranked at Number 2 on the UN’s list of the world’s most tolerant societies. And so no need to mention them. And so we can be as complacent as we like. But sadly it isn’t true, and so, apologies, but I didn’t forget the First Nations, I just saved them to the very end, like every Canadian politician, kept them in reserve you might say, tried but in the end just couldn’t ignore them, all of which, and not just superficially, explains why my marks for are nowhere near as high as earlier paragraphs might have led you to expect.

Marks For: 8

Marks Against: 1

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