They were men - 36 in all. White men, not that far removed from their European immigrant heritage. Privileged and powerful men, accustomed to wielding political power. They also had a vision: that the North American British colonies that had stayed out of the American Revolution could come together in as a new entity.
In that vision they succeeded. Well, partly. Three major conferences later – Charlottetown, Quebec City and London, England – they pulled four colonies together: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Lower and Upper Canada – sometimes known as Canada East and Canada West, i.e. southern sectors of what we now call Quebec and Ontario. Four became one. But Prince Edward Island voted No and many Nova Scotians remained opposed.
Still, what they accomplished offered the world a gentler, more peaceful alternative to armed revolution, the route chosen by colonists in the United States almost a century earlier. I confess to a personal fascination with both approaches, as a dual citizen and as an official commentator for the American Bicentennial (1976), then for Canada’s 100th fifty years ago and now in this celebration. In my opinion Canada’s “Triple Gold” – its 150th and beyond – carries meaning not only for Canadians and Americans but for thinking people all over the world. To briefly summarize: two powers that have exercised global influence – the UK and the US – are currently pulling back from that role. Since in human and world affairs as in physics nature abhors a vacuum, others will step in. We could do worse than let it be Canada!
The Canadian model has proved its worth over the years. As John Karefa-Smart of Sierra Leone once told me, “Canada achieved independence in a peaceful process; that gave us confidence we could do the same.” Karefa-Smart was a clergyman and medical doctor who, commuting between West Africa and Westminster, became a father of a new and independent country. Other colonies have followed a similar pattern, transforming a once-mighty Empire into a Commonwealth.
The present moment in Canada’s story is a most appropriate time for people everywhere to take note, even learning from Canada’s experience.
As when a teenager takes over tasks formerly entrusted to more mature persons, people will be asking, What is their history? What have they learned so far? What attitudes and biases do they bring to their new role? Are they flexible … or rigid? Doctrinaire? Open? Honest? Principled? How patient? How persistent? If all the world were like Canada, would it be a better place?
Will Canadians rise to the challenge?
Announcing a Resource
In the midst of flying flags, fireworks and formal ceremonies, before and after the parties and parades, a provocative new book gives perspective on Canada’s history, evaluates its present status and provides a framework for moving into the future. Titled True North, Strong and Free, it highlights “New Ways of Looking at Canada.” To that end it presents 27 maps – some of which you’ve never seen before. Beyond offering new perspectives on the past, the book clearly sets out a stance on the country’s future direction. If racism – especially slavery and the continuing effects of the black-white split – is America’s “original sin” (as Jim Wallis of Sojourners and other analysts claim), then the problem-loaded relationship between Canada’s First Nations – its Indigenous peoples – and the still-dominant descendants of the Fathers of Confederation is the Canadian sin-twin.
True North … points to the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and calls for all Canadians to take it to heart. In this it has strong support from a wide spectrum of distinguished Canadians:
- Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
- Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada
- The Hon. Rob Nicholson, Conservative Member of Parliament with broad experience in federal Cabinet posts
- The Hon. Larry Bagnell, Liberal MP for Yukon
- The Rt. Rev. David Parsons, Bishop of the Arctic
The author of the book is Brian Arthur Brown, best-selling author of previous books about Canada and on world religions, radio commentator, Oxford scholar and Christian minister. (I am responsible for the maps.)
Sample the Message
Here’s a 90-second way to sample the content: just read these brief quotes:
We are on the cusp of change in relations between First Nations and all Canadians. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Canada, herself a member of a First Nations band, recently observed, “Legitimate and strong Indigenous Nations have already begun to change the way Canada is governed, and for the better.”
- Perry Bellegarde
… most Canadians think of Canada on a wall map as stretching from the 49th parallel north to almost infinity, and almost as wide as tall. In fact, Canada is a thousand kilometers wider east-to-west than tall south-to-north. This is a short plump country, not much like the far north colossus we thought we knew.
There are some facts about this load that Canadians need to face…. To begin with, Canada’s north is not quite as large as most people grew up thinking. This is because the maps we all used until recently distort the global land mass as we look toward the north and south poles. This is especially true for Canada, Greenland and Russia.
… our Ellesmere Island in the extreme north is not really three times the size of Mexico, as portrayed on most of the maps we have ever seen. The truth is just the reverse; Mexico is three times the size of Ellesmere Island! Two falsehoods here distort reality: one makes our north into a gargantuan ungovernable wasteland, the other trivializes Mexico, a trading partner which has five times our population.
- Brian Arthur Brown
On Canada’s multiculturalism:
Born of an abused Aboriginal mother and an orphaned French father, in a political marriage arranged by the British crown, the family of Canada expanded with adopted siblings running away from home [here follows a roll call of immigrant groups coming to Canada: Irish fleeing famine, Scots, United Empire Loyalists leaving New England, then Pennsylvania Deutsch seeking farmland and Chinese hired to build a railway. Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Dutch, Hungarians and Jews were prominent among political refugees, followed by people from Italy, Greece and Portugal seeking economic security. The story, never simple, grows more complex as migrants from Japan, India, Pakistan and Africa (blacks, whites and South Asians) came, followed, closer to our own time, by Russians, Syrians and other Middle Easterners, South Sudanese and Latinos.
This accounts for the much-vaunted multiculturalism our politicians are fond of boasting about. But it does not explain how we get along together so well in such diversity.
- Brian Arthur Brown
A Typical Response
A neighbour read True North, then told three friends about it. All three placed orders that same day. If you also wish to enjoy its ”new ways of looking at Canada,” you’ll find it on Amazon.ca, at Wood Lake Publishing, as well as at your local Chapters Indigo bookseller.