Ignatieff writes in detail about his maternal greatgrandfather, grandfather and uncle, all Grant family men who left their mark on Canada. Since they seem to have been centrally involved at several key junctures in Canadian history, recounting their stories necessarily reminds readers of the nation's past and provides a neat segue into how the author would shape its future.
Writers&Writing A Challenge for Canadians By Harold M. Waller C ANADIANS were struggling with the question of Still, after 140 years of independence Canada finds that its what their country represents even before its offi- vast land expanse and relatively thin population (less than cial establishment in 1867. Canada’s reputation as California’s), crowded near the United States border, make a calm and quiet—dare we say boring—place that governing exceptionally challenging. Much of the population is snow-covered for half the year notwithstand- is concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, leaving the other eight ing, administering it and nurturing its economy have never been provinces often feeling that the Federal government’s policies easy and may be becoming more difficult. do not reflect the needs of the nation as a whole. Alberta, which The simple fact that it is situated next to the United States has been prospering for years from its substantial oil reserves, has been a constant dilemma. And of course there is the peren- is particularly resentful about having failed to achieve the in- nial challenge of maintaining good relations between English fluence it thinks it deserves. and French Canadians, the country’s two founding peoples. But Canada has managed to deal with its strained federal Thus, despite the confident prediction over 100 years ago that system in a civilized way (no civil war here), while building a “the 20th century will belong to Canada,” made by one of its society that boasts numerous virtues. So the country is gener- noteworthy prime ministers, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, at the end of ally admired internationally (albeit not by American conserva- that century the country was hanging together by a thread. The tives, who find it excessively tinged with Socialist features), second Quebec independence referendum, in 1995, was de- and respected for its principles. Ironically, it is one of the few feated by the slightest of margins, creating a near-death expe- countries besides the United States fully engaged in combat rience for a polity that had been a source of hope to so many against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, though most citizens. Canadians seem rather indifferent to what is going on half a Less than 15 years later, Quebec secessionists continue to world away. plan their strategy for the next referendum, whenever it might To its credit, too, Canada remains a favorite destination be; elsewhere one hears expressions of considerable dissatis- for immigrants. Despite its French-British origins, it is now faction with the status quo; the heart of the country has been genuinely multicultural. In fact, because it never had one dom- particularly hard hit by the global recession; and the political inant culture, and newcomers make up such a large part of leadership is having difficulty coping with an increasingly dys- the populace, it is becoming increasingly difficult to assert the functional Parliament. The latest parliamentary crisis, only last intrinsic value of a Canadian culture. The task is also complicat- fall, raised profound issues of legitimacy in an environment ed because Canada labors in the shadow of the United States where a majority government remains out of reach. And yet, in and must constantly fend off U.S. cultural influences. In addi- many respects Canada has been doing well compared with other industrialized coun
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