Oh Canada – You In Or Out?
It is one of the most stable and prosperous nations on earth. It has an incredibly vast and diversified natural beauty that is reflected in the diversity of its people. Canadians of all cultures are, for the most part, a peaceful and civilized people – except when it comes to hockey, of course, and then we get a bit rowdy.
The distance between the extreme edges of our main political parties are not as far apart as the distance between Toronto Maple Leafs fans and fans of the Montreal Canadians.
Americans rightfully make much of the peaceful transition of their governments every four years but Canada enjoys an equally peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected government to the next and sometimes more frequently than every four years.
Canada enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the world, has a growing economy despite the setbacks every once in awhile and is a tolerant nation where people of different races, cultures, religions, political ideologies and sexual orientation are free to live their lives without fear or repression.
The new Premier of Canada’s largest province is an openly gay woman and last year, a member of the Canadian Parliament was married to his long-time partner.
Our educational system needs some work but is still one of the finest in the world and if we are sometimes a little too politically correct, Canada nonetheless is loyal to its allies, often punching above its weight in both peacekeeping and armed conflict.
It is generous to its friends and those who need assistance.
Canada contributes a significant amount of foreign aid to countries around the world, especially to those countries struggling immediately after a natural disaster and has a broad social safety net for its own citizens, including universal health care.
Of the top ten cities with the cleanest air in the world, eight are in Canada.
Canada is not perfect but it remains a great country for all of its flaws and despite the challenges it faces. I think, too many of us take that for granted and forget just how fortunate we are. We too often put our petty differences ahead of the benefit of being Canadian I think it’s time to ask a simple question:
Are you in or out?
The province of Quebec is one of those that needs to decide once and for all if they want to remain Canadian. Currently the province receives more than $17 billion in transfer payments and health and educational transfers from the federal government. It has been recognized by Canada’s Parliament as a ‘nation within a nation’ and has influenced the country to declare itself officially bilingual. Billions have been spent across Canada to accommodate the French language.
Despite this, there remains a hard-core separatist group within the province, including its current provincial government whose singular ambition is to remove Quebec from Canada and become an independent nation.
It’s a recurring issue that distracts from unifying the country.
It’s difficult to understand why anyone would want to become one of the smallest nations on earth with a population of less than 7 million, which is what the nation of Quebec would be or why they believe they can maintain the lifestyle and social programs that being Canadian currently helps to provide. Be that as it may, some do and it’s time for all of Quebec to decide once and for all; are you Canadian or not?
Others, like current Liberal B.C. Premier, Christie Clark, put nation-building aside in favour of regional squabbling and threats to block pipelines unless her province gets a bigger share of Alberta’s oil royalties. Greed and political grandstanding in order to get reelected don’t contribute much to the growth of a strong and unified nation.
It’s time for regional politicians to decide if they’re Canadian or merely the caretakers of some small region of the country.
Groups like Occupy protest and complain without bothering to actually inform themselves of the facts behind what they’re protesting. They complain about the 1% having too big a share of Canada’s wealth but use figures from the United States. As was revealed recently by Stats Canada, in this country, the 1% have a significantly smaller share of this nation’s wealth and even that share has been declining.
Nonetheless, they live in a country that provides them the opportunity to voice their misinformed opinions freely and without fear of repression – so, Occupy; You in or out?
It’s equally true of those who immigrate to this country.
A few years back, when trouble erupted in Lebanon – again, the Canadian government was called on to rescue, at considerable expense, Lebanese-Canadians who had obtained Canadian citizenship and its benefits but who chose to return to Lebanon to live. I never forgot the criticism by one who was rescued by that the Canadian government hadn’t provided sandwiches on the boat crossing to Italy.
It seems to me that if you are a citizen of this country then you should be here helping to build this country rather than simply stopping by to pick up a passport and demanding the government take care of you when things go badly back in the homeland.
Some African immigrants arrive in Canada, register for social assistance which then makes its way back to the family in whatever country they came from. Often, multiple fraudulent names are used to register for Canadian largesse.
Too many flee the problems of their original country but end up bringing those same problems here. Tamils protest in Canada making demands that Canada involve itself in this issue in Sri Lanka. Muslims leave their countries to settle in Canada and then demand Sharia law just like back in the home they left because they were looking for something better.
Some bring unacceptable practices like female genital mutilation and honour killings with them; practices which have no place in Canada. They apply for and often receive Canadian citizenship but too often insert a hyphen between Canadian and their former nationality, trying to live with a foot in both.
It’s time for hyphenated Canadians to decide whether they are simply Canadian or not but either way, it’s time to lose the hyphen.
Our own indigenous people have some soul searching to do as well.
Too many live in poverty but not for lack of federal and provincial funding. There are real issues on many of the reserves in Canada today and the key word there is ‘today’. Too many who protest in our streets and rail against the injustice of Canadian society have their emotions locked in a romantic past that doesn’t exist anymore, if it ever did.
The country their ancestors roamed is not the country that exists today. It was all Canadians who built this new nation with its infrastructure, its cities, its health care and educational systems that simply didn’t exist two hundred years ago. It’s time to stop drooling over the past and accept the present if we are to move forward together into the future.
Anything less only creates unnecessary conflict and acrimony which prevents resolution of many of the issues facing both Canada and its First Nations.
Canada has been criticized both within the country and internationally for how it ‘treats’ its aboriginal citizens but the truth is that it doesn’t ‘treat’ them at all. It supports them.
Status Indians in Canada pay no income tax on income earned on the reserve or sales tax. The do not pay health care premiums but receive not only the same health care as Canadians but also receive free eye and dental care, as well as, prescription drug support, none of which is available for free or even under the Health Care system to other Canadians. They have access to a social assistance fund to which most do not contribute and get financial support for post-secondary education. Many would like to keep those benefits but still be treated as separate and independent nations.
Everyone agrees that the current Indian Act is a paternalistic and racist anachronism but it hasn’t been scrapped because there are those within the aboriginal community who are reluctant to give up the benefits that come with it.
Instead, like some in Quebec, they want to be treated as separate, independent nations but have Canadians pay for it. It’s time for aboriginal Canadians to also decide if they’re in or out.
You can’t be a little bit pregnant as my dad used to say. You either are or you aren’t but too many people in this country want it both ways. They want the benefits that accrue from being Canadian but also want to be masters in their own house rather than contributing members of a unified Canadian society.
It’s sort of like the attitude of some teenagers who think they should be allowed to decide everything for themselves but have mom and dad pay the freight. It’s time to grow up and for some to decide if they’re part of the family or want to move out and live on their own somewhere else.
Personally, I think all groups should have the right to decide their future for themselves. We are, after all, a democracy and that includes the right of people to decide whether or not they wish their group to be Canadian or something else.
If a group wishes to become independent; fair enough but it’s time to make a decision and accept the consequences of that decision so that we can all move on. The idea that it is possible to be both Canadian and something else and expect Canada to pick up the tab is just mistaken thinking.
Pretend nationhood isn’t nationhood, its entitlement.
Jacques Parizeau, a former separatist premier of Quebec, was of the opinion that Quebec could separate but continue to rely on Canada for defense, communications and use Canadian currency, its post office and other services without the inconvenience of having to pay for them.
It’s nothing less than adolescent thinking.
Canada is a great country but it would be even greater if some in this country stopped trying to be separate and apart while remaining attached and started contributing to the further development of our national identity and mutual prosperity.
It’s easy to talk about separation when you’re not getting your own way, especially when someone else is paying your way. It’s more difficult when you have to pay your own bills.
The bickering is counter-productive for everyone, not just Canada as a nation. It has and will continue to accomplish nothing except more acrimony and mistrust.
We have too many hyphenated citizens, too many trying to be nations within a nation and too many who simply take the prosperity and benefits of this country for granted. It creates a divided loyalty which serves nobody well.
Everybody gets to decide for themselves but before frustrated Canadians provide an answer for them, it’s time to for some in this country to ask themselves a simple and honest question.
This is Canada – you in or out?
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
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