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Oh Canada – You In Or Out?

maple-leaf-forever-resizedCanada is a great country.

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?

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© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
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  • Steve Peters

    I think that we missed the boat years ago , If we had a constitution of our own , then all persons would be equal under the law . Perhaps our politions should look into this . That would solve the on going crissis with both the Native and the Quebec concerns.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      we do have a constitution of our own. It was defined and implemented in 1982 and is an amalgamation of all previous acts and codified traditions and conventions. dating as far back as the Magna Carta in England. It also has the not-withstanding clause which means that any government, provincial or federal can over-ride an unconstitutional law simply by invoking the not-withstanding clause. We also have our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms with which many who are too quick to shut down the free-speech and similar rights of others either ignore or are unfamiliar.

  • John Savage

    As usual, a wonderful editorial. Off topic though, a technical comment. Perhaps it’s my computer, but the advertisement for Amazon.com which is displayed in the left column, is wider than the column and tends to hide parts of your commentary. Would be nice if it could be corrected.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      What browser are you using. Internet Explorer, for some reason really messes up the page layout and I haven’t been able to figure out why or what to do about it. Sorry for the inconvenience. One thing you can try is to adjust the viewing size in your browser’s tools. If it’s set higher than 100%, try dropping it down to 100%. If it’s already at 100$, try lowering it a bit to 90 or 80%.

  • Nicola Timmerman

    Wish the Reform Party got more credit for the Clarity Act which Chretien and the Liberals trumpet as one of their great achievements (at least they used to do that). Thanks to Preston Manning and a private member’s bill (drafted by Stephen Harper) in 1996 this debate was begun seriously (the Quebec Contigency Act).

    The Parti Quebecois is now talking about lowering the voting age to 16. This would certainly help them in a referendum on the future of Quebec in or out of Canada.

  • http://bgulk0.wix.com/raspberry-h-venue gramma Barb

    When will Canada begin to uphold the ‘rules’ of OUR house? Can’t come too soon for me! Our big problem is we try to make everyone happy and ‘inclusive’ Usually when visitors or boarders come to our homes, they follow our rules and etiquette already established. I like the term, ‘Nation to Nation’ everyone treated equally. As for those that want to
    rearrange OUR Canadian Furniture, I say, there’s the door, and don’t let it slap you in the ass as your leaving! Our politicians need to get some backbone, and stick to OUR basic house rules and quit trying to butter up the voters to shimmy up the ladder of power! It is getting so tiring and confusing with all the hands sticking out for more and more handouts and has anyone noticed….our debt is getting larger!
    Well said Bear, Canada is a great country, now lets get better and stronger ! United we stand, divided we fall.

  • Bill

    Yes indeed Canada is a very diverse nation, ethnically, religiously and culturally. Pierre Trudeau had a dream. He dreamed a dream of multiculturalism. His dream allowed many foreigners to come to Canada and have a dream of their own: keep you culture, keep your language, keep your customs and even keep your birth countries citizenship. Peace, love, joy and harmony are just some of the things that you can experience in Canada. Mr. Trudeau certainly fulfilled his dream and that dream will be carried on by his precious son Justin. I’m sure Justin has a beautiful liberal lefwinged dream of his own that will quash the founding principles and identity of Canada even further into the ground.

    • Harry98

      I have to hope Trudeau jr. will take Quebec out of Canada. I have been waiting 75 years to see this.

      • http://abearsrant.com thebear

        I would prefer they stay. I like the Quebec culture and have many friends in the province. I won’t be upset, however, if Mr. Trudeau emigrates elsewhere.

  • Alain

    Thank you for the excellent article. I would however like to comment on your idea that all groups should be able to decide their future, as in a sense I see this as a big part of the problem. We allowed Trudeau to move Canada from a country formed and based on individual rights to the socialist concept of group or collective rights. This has resulted in the creation of a lot of bad laws and very bad policy. As for the rest I totally agree with you.

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      Because I believe in democracy, I believe that groups do have the right to decide for themselves but even that has limits. If, for example, Quebec separates from Canada, it doesn’t get to walk away with all the marbles. It takes its own debt with it, pays for whatever infrastructure Canada made contribution and may not even get to take all of the land area now defined as Quebec. It’s the same with aboriginal Canadians. They may get to isolate themselves in small pocket communities they call nations but they won’t have access to the services or benefits of being Canadian. As for those who have immigrated here, well, it’s simply time to drop the hyphen or return to the mother country. Canada has traditions of its own and it’s long past time for those who seek to impose theirs on this country to remember that.

      • Alain

        Exactly, and I did not mean to imply that you agreed with the socialist concept per se. I do feel strongly that this change from individual rights to collective rights is largely responsible for the mess we see. I certainly agree concerning Quebec, and again it is something aided by federal politicians with bad policies and laws; official bilingualism is just one along with statements claiming Quebec a nation. We now see the same political whoring with the radicals claiming aboriginal nations and demanding nation to nation discussion. The aboriginal groups are not nations and even Quebec is not a nation in that all of them are dependent on Canada.

        Personally a person’s mother tongue, colour, sex, ethnic origin or religion do not prevent them from being full Canadian. When however their loyalty lies elsewhere, we have a problem and in my opinion they should not be here.

        • http://abearsrant.com thebear

          I took no offense. My point is that a house divided cannot stand, to quote the cliche. Too many people identify with their past instead of their present and their future. We are in this together and all are welcome, regardless of their ethnic or cultural background, gender orientation or religion but you can’t be loyal to two masters. Henry VIII for all his faults, understood that when he demanded that the English bishops owed their allegiance to the King of England rather than to both the King and the Pope in Rome. It creates conflicted loyalties which result in unnecessary conflict and division. We have more than enough of that just in our politics and which hockey team we support. We don’t need more.

  • Steve O

    Bear, I could not have said it better myself. I have been saying for years this hyphenated
    name thing has got to go. The other thing that gets me going is this First Nations garbage. They are not and were not first nations. They were 650 or so bands of native peoples who roamed what is now Canada living off the land and trying to survive. That’s all I have to say….Steve O

  • Garrett

    Excellent article as usual. I’ve lived in 2 native communities and have travelled to many. It is true that many reserves have poor living conditions. The condition of the communities and residences make it look like the inhabitants just don’t care about how they live. So more tax money will help them how?
    My vision of Canada includes Quebec, but if they want to go, they should go. No more support, transfer payments, use of federal services, and, oh yeah, you’ll need to take your debt too. The transfer payments used to support Quebec could then be used to improve health care or infrastructure in the rest of Canada.
    I’m tired of having to put up with the constant rhetoric of the various chiefs and politicians of Quebec demanding more while providing NOTHING….not to mention quebecers “striking” students. Who the hell are they striking against? Generally speaking a strike is reserved for those that have jobs. Jus sayin.
    The rally cry for the entitlement crowd seems to be they want self determination to save their culture which is being taken away by the bad white English speakers. This argument is do old and pointless it’s laughable because the vast majority really have no issue with native or French culture. It’s up to their own people to protect their culture.

    Holding your palm out for money and accusing the rest of Canada of racism or being colonialists has become the standard refrain and much easier than looking inward to solve problems. It’s easy to blame, isn’t it?

    • http://abearsrant.com thebear

      Typically, the culture these groups try to protect is being eroded by their own actions and mythology. Culture is not rigid structure. It is organic. It grows and evolves or else it withers and dies. We’re seeing that wherever we look when we look at those groups trying to build a fence around some intractable concept of their culture. Quebec tramples basic civil liberties and rights trying to protect what it thinks is its culture. What impact will that have over time on the evolution of its society? First Nations are lost in the past and it isn’t even an accurate past, it’s a heavily romantacized version that prevents them from moving into the 21st century. Their ancestors did better than that.

      Divided loyalties eventually lead to lost sense of purpose and that leads nowhere but down.

  • Cheryl

    I agree with everything you’ve said! Well done! And I loved the pregnancy analogy.

  • Rob Grantham

    Well said, the belief of entitlement without accountability has been so ingrained into too many small interest groups and people. Its time to say enough join the working class and contribute.

  • Scott M

    “It’s time for them for hyphenated Canadians to decide whether they are simply Canadian or not but either way, it’s time to lose the hyphen.”

    Well said! Couldn’t agree more!

    • Fed up

      Keep up the good work. It is too bad that our politically correct media often act as cheerleaders for these groups instead of getting to what the real issues are. The fact is that no other country in the world would are as tolerant as we are in Canada. To a certain point, that is a good thing, but we need to know when to stand up for ourselves and say enough is enough.
      I need to add a few points of clarification. Status Indians pay no income tax for jobs that takes place on their reserves only. I worked for Indian Affairs in my early years and the regional office I worked out of was located on reserve land. All of the Status Indians who worked there paid no income tax because their jobs were deemed to be located ‘on reserve’. One other benefit you missed is that any Status Indian who wants to obtain higher education gets their living and tuition costs paid as well. This is a HUGE benefit that most Canadians are able to only dream about! Imagine what a head start this would provide to our young people who aren’t Indian. While great strides have been made over the years with increasing numbers of Indian young people taking advantage of this benefit, it is a shame that not enough of them do.

      • http://abearsrant.com thebear

        I was aware of the income tax rule but sometimes my fingers get ahead of my brain when I’m writing and I omit things I shouldn’t omit. Thanks for the clarification. I’ll update the post accordingly. You’re also quite right about the post-secondary support provided. In fact, when you get right down to it, while Canada hasn’t got everything right and has done some terrible things in its history, we do fairly well by our First Nations and it would be nice if just once in awhile, there was some appreciation for the effort if not the realization.