Canada, 2008-

Wednesday 9 July 2008, by Michael Ryan Wiseman

Canada, 2008-

Canada will be forgiven for sitting down and taking it easy for its birthday this year- after all it has a lot weighing on its mind and it is feeling under the weather. And though it cannot expect everyone it knows to send best wishes and gifts in celebration, Canada does deserve a sliver of cake in recognition of its regrettably modest- and sometimes downright counterproductive- efforts to improve itself and the world. After all, it is hard to grow up and it is easy to forget how young Canada- and everybody else- is.

From the outside, Canada looks happy. It is friendly, polite, has a good sense of humour, and is making a really good living.

Canada, though, is a lot more complex and troubled than its friends think. In fact, there is still debate over the date of its birth. Conventional wisdom is July 1, 1867 with the signing of the British North America Act, however long after this date Canada had little to no actual sovereignty and autonomy on issues as fundamental to independence as foreign policy.

The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 has also been touted as the time Canada shed its colonial status and became its own country, finally standing on its own two feet internationally. The more pedantic may point to the Statute of Westminster of 1931, which established veritable legislative equality between Dominion and Empire.

Symbolically speaking, it could also be 1965 with the hoisting on flagpoles of the Maple Leaf rather than the Union Jack or Red Ensign. There is also an argument to be made that Canada was born as late as 1982 when the Canada Act severed what remained of legislative ties with Mother Britain via constitutional patriation.

Or, perhaps, a true north strong and free has yet to be born. All of its coins- and its $20 bill- display its Queen. Its passport reads, “in the name of Her Majesty the Queen.” Who is this Queen that Canada places in such high importance? Surely She is some great benefactor showering Her loyal subjects with countless advantages.

Trade between the two countries pales in comparison to that which takes place between Canada and the U.S, and between Great Britain and the E.U. What’s more, the Queen forbids Her Canadian subject from making a living on Her island without first snatching a visa from the jaws of a demanding, convoluted, expensive and reluctant bureaucracy. That being said, neither has Canada made the process a formality for Britons wishing to live in the great white north.

Her neighbours on the continent, however, be they French, German, Latvian, or any other EU country- none of whom have the privilege of being Her subject- have the right to make a life on Her home soil virtually at will. If freedom of movement and labour is not the reason for this tie that binds Canada and Great Britain, it may be something less tangible.

Culturally, the majority of Anglo-Canada has much more in common with their southern neighbour than with the Queen. Meanwhile, Franco-Canada, Mosaico-Canada, and the First Nations have even less in common with Her Majesty than Anglo-Canada does, indeed Her very presence is arguably a hindrance to greater harmony between Canada’s multiple personalities.

What, then, is either Canada or the Queen getting out of this anachronistic, unfulfilling relationship that is neither materially nor culturally beneficial to either party? Well, history is important. This Queen has been alive since Canada and Great Britain were siblings in arms. Perhaps Canada- ever polite - is merely waiting for the curtain to come down on this era before it excuses itself from Great Britain to declare its actual independence.

Staying under the crown would offer the Dominion of Canada a chance to see Prince- make that King- Charles on the Loonie, while a Confederated Republic would offer Canada the chance to create a stronger, truer democracy. Sometimes, making history is more important.

In order to do this, Canada will have to be in peak condition so, to start, a little invasive surgery and holistic medicine to ensure that it gets over its current illnesses and leads a long, fulfilled life.
Canada’s multiple personalities aren’t as happy as they could be considering they hail from an otherwise healthy, resource-rich, surplus-laden, educated, peaceful, beautiful individual. Why, then, is there low voter turnout coinciding with high levels of apathy and/or disillusionment? What disease could be inciting these symptoms? What is the cure?

Spanning several time zones, languages, cultures, religions, and walks of life, it comes as no surprise that Canada is having a hard time holding itself together and that we cells are less and less responsive to the central nervous system. It is little wonder that so many people currently feel detached in the face of a distant, labyrinth of a government.

Maybe Canada would find life easier if it just focused on the big things like making friends and keeping itself and its cells safe. The rest of the body can run itself. Increased autonomy amongst First Nations, Provincial, and Municipal governments must be a priority. It would bring government closer to the people, giving them more control and, therefore, a greater desire and will to act. To be successful, a democracy must be nimble and responsive to the needs of its master, the people.

The devolution of responsibilities to the lowest practicable level across all of its functions would allow Canada to do more where it is really needed and, more importantly, it would encourage greater activity and involvement at an individual level.

Without cells there could be no Canada, the reverse does not hold true. Happy birthday Canada, happy birthday to us too. This year we should ask ourselves for a renaissance.

Michael Ryan Wiseman is a Montreal-based writer.

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