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CLN4UCanadianandInternationalLaw

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CanadianNationalismandtheCultureofOurGreatNation
BenjaminBelovich
21March2016

CanadianNationalismandtheCultureofourGreatNation

Canadian Nationalism and the Culture of Our Great Nation Benjamin Belovich

What fosters Canadian nationalism? Or at the very least: what makes a Canadian
want to remain a Canadian? Is it our great love for hockey, our patronage and culture of
French and English or our role in the world? Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the 15th Prime
Minister of Canada, writes in his book Federalism, Nationalism and Reason that will,
rather than the factors of geography, common language, common culture is the most
critical to the foundation of the nation, (Trudeau). He furthers his point by comparing
the United States and Switzerland to Brazil and Belgium. All of the states are host to a
variety of cultures and languages, such Belgium: French and Brazil: Spanish, and yet the
former have a much stronger sense of a national bond than their counterparts. A factor
that Trudeau attributes to a greater will. What Trudeau fails to recognize is that a nation
and a state are not necessarily the same especially in countries such as Canada, where a
multitude of cultural groups reside. The rights and interests of the minorities can never be
truly placed first because even a representative democracy must give in to the will of the
majority. Therefore, for individuals to have will, which holds a country containing
minorities together, there have to be one or many incentives in place that counteract any
ethnic tensions. In Canada, these incentives manifest themselves as: history and what is
known as material benefit. These factors, along with time and a governments support,
help to create a national identity for individuals to be loyal to, which subsequently leads
to civic nationalism. Therefore, while Trudeau is correct in his support for will, he is
wrong to not recognize that it originates from a larger national identity created by history
and the idealized benefits of being a nation.

CLN4U Canadian and International Law

Canadian Nationalism and the Culture of Our Great Nation Benjamin Belovich

History, or the retelling and discussion of the common shared sacrifices made in
the past, can be used to remind individuals of their common ties and instigate
cooperation; however, in Canada, history has the potential to both further and harm the
separatist cause in Quebec. Originally [settled] in 1524 by Jacques Cartier, an explorer
from France, (Canadian Encyclopedia), Quebec has arguably been a cornerstone of
Canadian society since then. Quebec was the first province in the modern area of Canada
to be settled and one of the original provinces in the Confederation of 1867,
(Confederation). Furthermore, it has contributed to much of Canadas modern culture: it
is arguable that with the original Quebec act of 1774, which sought to appease Canadians
or Canadian francophones, Britain set a precedent for the establishment of an officially
multicultural society. This legacy is something Canadians embrace openly today; in 2010,
Canada accepted 280, 636 new immigrants (Government of Canada). This is quite
significant, given that most western countries have cut back on immigration, while
Canada has accepted 6% more immigrants (ibid). Because Quebec has been part of
Canada, for such a long time (1760 to present), it is easy to see why most English
Canadians and the government do not desire Quebec to split off. However, from a
francophone perspective, Quebec has been readily marginalized (being pushed to the
edge of a group and accorded lesser importance) for the past 250 years. The
Constitutional Act of 1791 came into force and resulted in the province of Canada being
split into Upper (Anglo) and Lower (French) Canada, (Constitutional Facts). This was
acceptable to both parties as the French had a homeland of sorts and the British were no
longer bound by French civil law. However, the French were disturbed by what they saw
as the British were constantly meddling in their political affairs. This is best exemplified

CLN4U Canadian and International Law

Canadian Nationalism and the Culture of Our Great Nation Benjamin Belovich

when a British Governor at the time blatantly vetoed any unfavorable legislation put
forth by the Canadian assembly, (Lhistoire Du Qubec). This phenomenon pushed
disgruntled citizens to rebel in the Lower Canada Rebellions of 1837-1838. Britain, in an
attempt to reject any future rebellions sought to culturally assimilate the FrenchCanadians by the Union Act of 1840, which unified both Lower and Upper Canada.
While Canadians regained some rights from Confederation in 1867, it is easy to
see, after multiple assaults on their culture and the fact that they are vastly outnumbered
by these former oppressors, why the French have symbolized the Anglophones as a
villainous out group. This mistrust is exploited by individuals supporting separatism to
establish a clear divide between Quebec and the rest of Canada and because of this,
leaders can claim that the two groups have different interests and support nationalistic
sentiment, disguised as self defense. Perhaps the best example of this is shown in Liberal
Premier Robert Bourassas comments in 1990, when he claimed that Quebec would only
negotiate bilaterally with English Canada, a nonexistent entity and that unless
acceptable "offers" were forthcoming, Quebec would take its future in its own hands,
(Nenmi).
The aforementioned Quebec nationalism is what is pushing individuals to
promote separation despite impressive reforms by the federal government. For instance,
Pierre Trudeau himself implemented a national policy of bilingualism, (Bill 101).
Furthermore, Canada as a country delegates much power to individual provinces as
defined by the constitution, they are even able to invoke the notwithstanding clause, to
ignore certain aspects of the constitution. Quebec receives 7.3 per year billion dollars in
equalization payments from the federal government, (Department of Finance Canada) in

CLN4U Canadian and International Law

Canadian Nationalism and the Culture of Our Great Nation Benjamin Belovich

order to compensate for their lack of revenues from taxes. In many ways, it is indicative
of its weak economy and inability to survive independently.
Interestingly, while Quebec residents have vetoed both referendums in 1980 and
1995, which sought to establish Quebec as a separate entity, they have given support to
the Parti Quebecois which supports separatism, (Werbowksi). Ultimately; however, this
battle will come down to which nationalism is stronger, as perpetual threat of Quebec
separation has the potential to erode larger Canadian support for the retention of Quebec.
At the same time, economic realities and new attempts to invoke civil nationalism and
build a new history by emphasizing common Canadian sports such as hunting and fishing
may make Quebec separatists discard their beliefs. Overall, this phenomenon goes to
show the double-sided nature of history, which depends on the viewpoint. It can be used
to both to promote ethnic nationalism but also civic nationalism. However, what is
undeniable is historys immense power in creating nations, (Murphy).
The other main reason behind the development of will is an idealistic version of
the benefits that belonging to a country provide. In other words, individuals will be
willing to pledge themselves to the country if they believe that the country benefits them.
This means that the state has a particularly important role in creating nationalistic
sentiment: its policies will affect whether citizens view the country as a worthy
investment or not. From a historical point of view, Canada became the Dominion of
Canada in 1867 with the passing of the British North America Act by the direction of
early Canadian nationalists, who were motivated by internal and external pressures,
(Confederation). Canadians feared an attack from the Americans as the War of 1812 had
not quenched the American Manifest Destiny ideologies and another attack from the
CLN4U Canadian and International Law

Canadian Nationalism and the Culture of Our Great Nation Benjamin Belovich

Americans seemed like a reasonable outcome. Additionally, America had also gone ahead
and cancelled the Britain-America Reciprocity treaty, which was partly in response to
British support of the South in the American civil war, (Reciprocity). This treaty enabled
an early version of free trade between the United States and Canada and without it,
Canada had smaller markets to trade and draw upon. The founding fathers thought this
issue could be made better by Confederation, as Canadians would be able to trade across
provinces. All in all, the Dominion was born not as a result of necessity, but rather
because individuals who lived in Canada believed it would provide superior lives for
them and their offspring. This guiding philosophy was seen in Prime Minister John A
MacDonalds actions: massive infrastructure projects such as the inter-colony and
Pacific railways and the implementation of protectionist economic policies, (Canadian
History Moments. Ultimately, this is an example of early nation building as a result of
nationalistic sentiment derived from pressure. The scarcity of resources and immediate
threat forced Canadians to come together and form a nation. However, this relationship
between the people and the government; the rights of the citizens to give or to withdraw
support from a government that failed to respect its wishes or really, a social contract was
not established in its entirety until 1982, when Trudeau himself amended the constitution
and added the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In order to retain power, governments often create external or internal pressures to
push citizens towards one political party or the other. In a world with increased economic
and global problems that have the capacity to threaten the benefits that Canada can
provide, citizens often find themselves adopting more intense nationalistic sentiments.
For instance, the North American Free Trade Alliance (NAFTA) was bitterly

CLN4U Canadian and International Law

Canadian Nationalism and the Culture of Our Great Nation Benjamin Belovich

controversial amongst Canadians, who were tired of having their culture Americanized
and losing jobs, (Faux). Returning to the contentious case of Quebec, it is worth noting
that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by arranging the respect and rights awarded to
Quebec, and francophones in general effectively eliminated previous controversy on
English Canadas insensitivity to the francophone nation, (Nemi). However, it is
subject to chance on Quebec voters to decide whether the money they are receiving under
this contract will be better than the ones in a separate Quebec nation-state.
There is typically one main argument used by those who do not consider history
and common interests to be the foundation of a nation. It is the premise that a national
identity or civic nationalism cannot developfrom history and common interests alone and
that without greater ties, there will be breaking of nations. Not only did the Charter
ensure protection of an individuals culture while also preserving the essential social
contract but it also was inclusive of all cultures. This gave immigrants the essential right
to enjoy as well as represent their culture. As a result, immigrants will continue to be
enticed by the benefits of being Canadian, that is: stay in Canada and be gradually
absorbed into the collective identity. Furthermore, this situation differs greatly from that
of the Quebecois as British governors often ignored the Canadians desires and much of
their legislation(s) vetoed. There were also great opposites in religion, as religion largely
determined ones identity. As such, Roman Catholic Christian versus Protestant was
easily a large distinction, (LEncyclopedie). However, as the constitution ensures a
secular government and since a fewer percentage of people are involved with organized
religion in Canada, now religion is not as prominent of an issue.

CLN4U Canadian and International Law

Canadian Nationalism and the Culture of Our Great Nation Benjamin Belovich

To conclude, nationalism, or the will to be a nation is undoubtedly an important


ingredient in the formation and retention of a nation; however, it is obvious that will does
not inherently exist in the minds of individuals but that it must be cultivated by an
attachment to the ideal of the nation. This attachment; however, can only exist through
the combined effect of common interests and gains but also a common, shared history. As
the state is involved with both the presentation of history and the making of decisions for
the country, missteps or successes have the ability to drastically impact an individual, and
thus the nation. Therefore, while Trudeau has a point when he says: Will is the
foundation of the nation, it is important to remember that the will that he speaks of is a
product of history and is highly dependent on the state.

CLN4U Canadian and International Law

Canadian Nationalism and the Culture of Our Great Nation Benjamin Belovich

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CLN4U Canadian and International Law