I am not a big fan of Canada Day … I don’t even, really, like the name, it seems contrived; like so many attempts to shoe-horn big, messy, disjointed Canada into some official and very artificial bilingual / multi-cultural mould that, of necessity encompasses too much and, simultaneously, leaves out too much, too. Over at CBC News, journalist Kathleen Harris sifts some of the ashes to find a handful of historians ~ the usual suspects ~ who lament that Liberal Canada (Justin Trudeau’s Canada) is deemphasizing our military heritage and replacing it with a different model. “Canadian Heritage,” she reports, “is focusing on four key themes across government departments: diversity and inclusion; youth; environmental stewardship; and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.” Quite honestly, I cannot remember, since the 1980s, when we focused on much that was different.
Ms Harris ends her article with what I think is a very perceptive idea from Michael Behiels, Emeritus Professor at Ottawa University’s Department of History: “Harper’s vision for Canada 150 was to focus on celebrating past accomplishments, including the military, and reinforcing his “brand of British-Canadian nationalism” … [but] … “Harper, knee-deep in a major recession, was not in favour of a major and very expensive, Expo -style celebration that focused on Canadians’ future-oriented aspirations” … [and] … By the time Trudeau formed government in 2015 … it was too late to make significant changes to 150 events in order to attract the world’s attention … [thus] … “Trudeau could not launch an Expo 1967-type celebration since there was no time or serious funds” … “What he could do — and did — was to revamp the Harper narrow, military-focused agenda into a Liberal Party agenda that reinforces the brand of Liberal Canadian nationalism.”“
Liberal Canadian nationalism … I have not, in my lifetime, been conscious of much else. Yes, John Diefenbaker did try to revive a certain (weak) British Imperialist ethos circa 1960 but it was, I think, at least as much a deeply held personal worry about the politics of John F Kennedy as it was anything “for” the likes of Anthony Eden or even Harold Macmillan. And, yes, Stephen Harper did try to instil a real conservative ethos, but it was never anywhere near the top of his agenda. Between Diefenbaker and Harper it ~ Canadian nationalism ~ was, all, invariably, a sort of soft, squishy, off-white, bilingual and sort of multi-cultural pabulum poured into that incomplete mould in the never to be realized hope that it might harden into something real and valuable. It never did. Instead the pabulum became institutionalized and Canadians came to accept, over 35 years, that their country was “nice” and all that but, in its soul, quite meaningless and wholly contrived.
I’m not against bilingualism … but I think the way we, Canadians, practice it, at the national level, is wasteful.
I’m not against multi-culturalism … even though I believe that much of the ‘credo’ of institutionalised multicuturalism is a lie.
I’m not against the myths of First Nations, French Canadians, tor he Scots or Irish or Ukrainian communities, or any other hyphenated Canadians … even though I see myself as an unhyphenated Canadian.
I’m not against the lies we tell ourselves … they are no worse than the lies the Americans and Australians and Brits and Chinese and Danes, and, and, and, tell themselves.
What I find objectionable is that too many of us don’t understand that we’re lying to ourselves, don’t understand that the whole thing about we are so determinedly self-congratulatory is a contrivance … and not a very good one, at that. It’s not a contrivance, like the American one, done by the professional “dream makers” from Hollywood and Madison Avenue, it’s a contrivance done by grey, faceless civil servants with calculators ~ 22% French, 6% Asian, 7% Scots and Irish, 8% Black, 6% LBGT and so on and on and on … and so many of us actually believe it. It’s sad.