Canada, be yourself! - Macleans.ca

Canada, be yourself!

From December 1929: ‘The mistakes of the American system, which have been made, which cannot be unmade, are a challenge to us to work out a separate destiny’

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    Less than two weeks after he penned this editorial, Arthur Hunt Chute met Death while embarked on the self appointed task of searching out a larger Canada. On September 22, an airplane in which he and two companions were speeding toward the Far North crashed into Lake Manitoba. It is fitting that his last message should be an expression of the faith that was in him.


    CANADIANS believe that there is room on the North American continent for an experiment separate and distinct from the United States. To this end they have committed themselves to the building up of a new nation.

    Not the least of Canada’s advantages in her present task is the fact that the United States has gone before. Profiting by the example of her great neighbor, the Dominion has been watching her step, at times following after, at times declaring boldly that there are features in the American system which she assuredly does not intend to emulate.

    The fact of the United States is the call for Canada. The mistakes of the American system, which have been made, which cannot be unmade, are a challenge to us to work out a separate destiny.

    Our Neighbors to the South

    WE HEAR from time to time about “our invisible boundary line.” This kind of talk awakens scant sympathy in the heart of Jack Canuck, for whom that boundary line is very real and very visible. The big nation may forget, but every contrast serves to impress the inequalities upon the lesser one. To keep pace with the wealthiest nation, and at the same time keep distinct from the wealthiest nation is, from Canada’s point of view, a vexing problem.

    In spite of glad-hand internationalists declaring: “We are all one,” and in spite of superficial unities, there are clean-cut distinctions north and south of the fortyninth parallel.

    They have broken away from Empire to Republic. We still cherish allegiance to the Crown. They have prohibition, we have government control. For years, they have gone in for unrestricted immigration; profiting by their example, with an eye to the future content of her citizenry, Canada is restrictive and selective.

    In business, Americans have committed themselves to private initiative. Canadians, on the other hand, are conducting three of the world’s greatest experiments in public ownership—the Wheat Pool, the National Railways, and the Ontario Hydro-Electric Power Commission.

    The United States is a high tariff country, while in contrast Canada is inclining increasingly toward moderate fiscal policies, looking toward world markets and the ideal of fair trade.

    These are some of the distinctions that cause us to declare to our American cousins: “Our ways are not your ways, and your ways are not ours.”

    The Dominion represents two predominant strains, economically American, politically British, and yet taken as a whole she is different from either—she is Canadian.

    There is a certain distinction about Canadian civilization, noted by André Siegfried and other detached observers—a distinction worth preserving.

    Why Apologize for Canada?

    'THERE is still too much of the after-you-my-dear Alphonse attitude on the part of some Canadians in regard to their older neighbors. These people show their disloyalty to a true Canadianism by mentioning everything of native origin with a condescending tone. While the world outside hails Canada’s achievements, these unassimilated prigs are mildly apologetic for everything at home, and at the same time are enamored of everything exotic.

    In 1867, Lord Carnarvon said, on moving the second reading of the British North America Bill: “We are laying the foundations of a great state, perhaps one which at a future date will overshadow this country.” The portentous lineaments of that great state are as yet but dimly apprehended.

    Canadianism is a new word; its deepest content is yet to be attained. Many of our citizens today, in spite of all that has transpired, are face to face with nothing bigger than a section or a province. Isolation, wide distances, diversity of interests, antagonisms ethnic and geographic, are lurking perils in the pathway of this young nation.

    England was once made up of Saxon, Norman, and Dane, of opposing races and opposing districts. But there came a time when they were no longer Saxon, Norman and Dane; when they became English. So in Canada, national evolution must ultimately bring us to the day when opposing races and opposing sections are swallowed up in larger unity, when we have ceased to be primarily French or English, primarily East or West, when above all else we have become Canadian.

    Those who are thinking nationally, in spite of sharpest, difference, will always find a common standing ground. Sir Charles Tupper and Joseph Howe were on opposite sides politically, but they were both alike blessed with the national mind. They belonged to the end of what might be styled “the golden age of Nova Scotia.” There Sam Cunard and Sam Slick in their respective spheres set the styles for a continent; as witness in business, the Cunard temple of Lower Broadway, heir to the Cunard warehouse of Halifax; as witness in literature, Artemus Ward, Mark Twain, and all that subsequent school of American humor initiated by Thomas Chandler Haliburton, of Windsor, Nova Scotia.

    With these Bluenose giants there was none of that inferiority complex that has fallen like a palsy on some of our latterday Canadians. They were not copy-cats of Boston and New York. Blessed with minds bold and free, they dared to carve their own distinctive channels.

    The classic aim enunciated by Matthew Arnold’s Sophocles was “to see life steadily and see it whole.” For us the ideal is to see Canada steadily and see it whole.

    How to overcome the narrow disposition, how to learn to estimate measures by general tendencies, how to think nationally and not parochially—here is the larger problem for the Canadian mind.

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