A Challenge for Canadians by ProQuest


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                                    for Canadians
                                                 By Harold M. Waller

               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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