As Canadian as possible under the circumstances
What defines us as Canadians? Is it our multiculturalism? Medicare? Hockey? That question was addressed by Globe and Mail columnist Roy MacGregor in a lunch time address to Canadian farm journalists and communicators in Belleville ON today.
The answer isn’t really that cut and dried, as MacGregor discovered while writing his book “Canadians”, that focuses on the many contradictions of our country and our people.
“How would you explain to someone that our head of state (Governor General Michaelle Jean) is from Haiti and had to give up her French citizenship to represent the Queen of England in Canada?”, asks MacGregor. “And our new year is actually Labour Day, not January, because that’s when everyone gets their life back on track and makes resolutions.
He referred to a CBC competition years ago that tried to find a Canadian equivalent to the phrase “As American as apple pie”. After a nation-wide contest and extensive judging, the CBC announced its result: “As Canadian as possible under the circumstances”.
MacGregor calls Canada the bumble bee nation – it defies logic but flies on inspite of it.
He also touched on the growing divide between rural and urban – called by some the new “two solitudes” that used to be represented by our English and French founding nations. Canada has experienced a flip flop in its demographics over the last 100 years. A century ago, 80% of Canada’s population was rural and 20% urban. These days, this has completely reversed and in Ontario, it has even increased to 85% urban and 15% rural. This, says MacGregor, explains Canadians’ endless preoccupation with urban issues and infrastructure and the rise of what is being called the five city states: Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary-Edmonton and the greater Vancouver area.
This growing urbanism is a myth, according to MacGregor, who revealed that the 1951 definition of an urban area is one with a population of 1000 or greater. The 2007 definition of an urban area is still a population of 1000 or greater! This is contributing to the growing urban-rural divide, he says, because rural Canadians don’t know who’s listening to their concerns and who is paying attention to their needs.
A Globe and Mail survey of 5000 Canadians three years ago revealed that 89% of respondents felt that it was the “overwhelming vastness of the landscape” that defines our country. This means “rural” defines Canada, says MacGregor, adding that it’s the message we all have to get out:
“Size matters and we need to help it make it matter”.