COLUMN: Robson – Canada’s national holiday is today, not last week’s Quebec day

- July 1st, 2012

Only one national day

by John Robson

Happy Canada Day. We don’t care if Quebec leaves.

Does that seem an unseemly topic for our national holiday? Well, I personally draw not just comfort but pride from a new poll showing 49% of us outside Quebec “don’t really care” if it separates.

Once upon a time such a survey would have occasioned much hand-wringing, soul-searching, and a desperate race by clueless anglo politicians to prove they, and they alone, could manage a reconciliation with Quebec despite such intransigent paleolithic xenophobia by the unworthy dolts who elected them. Today there’s more of a “Well, duh” feel about it. And rightly so.

It’s not a matter of being anti-Quebec. It’s a matter of being fed up with Quebecers’ alternating disinterest in and hostility toward us, and refusing to treat their contempt as justified.

Back in the 1970s, having just taken three hits of Pierre Trudeau, a lot of Canadians were proud of our bilingual identity. Not that we could actually speak French. But we thought it made us cosmopolitan and wonderfully open-minded to have imaginary francophone friends. We were young and the world lay before us and we were in love. Not sure if it was with La Belle Province or our own self-image. But it was infatuation and it was intoxicating.

Twenty years later, despite a big mortgage and a series of angry quarrels, we still remembered our youth. And when the lady in blue threatened to move out we rushed to Montreal with flags and flowers and painted faces and said please please don’t leave us, we can change.

Seventeen years later, we’ve done pretty well at keeping our word. We’re a good partner and frankly a good catch. But she’s still either cold or shrill. And we’re not blaming ourselves any more.

Why is this good news? Because it’s one more way “Canada” seems to be recovering its self-respect. That is of course a sweeping generalization. I know there are millions of Canadians outside Quebec still passionately attached to the two-founding-nations model. (And not a few who would actively vote Quebec out if they could.) But still I see signs of hope in all sorts of places.

The newfound respect for the military, for example, celebrating our tradition as fighters for freedom while official institutions like OC Transpo observe “wear red Friday.” I also like recent changes to our immigration laws. Instead of acting as though we feel lucky when foreigners deign to accept our shabby hospitality, we’re treating our citizenship as valuable. Again, it’s not anti-immigrant. It’s about welcoming newcomers as the latest to earn membership in a very special club.

Is there still a lot wrong with Canada? Yes. Including that we adopted far too much of the “Quebec model.” Has the fight to take our country back from the socialists, relativists and whiners succeeded? Not by 5,780 country miles.

Praise for the military has gone along with gutting it. And politicians from Harper to McGuinty spend wildly, meddle in our affairs and otherwise patronize us at huge cost while showing no real sign of believing Canadians are the sturdy, independent, resourceful people clearly evident in our history.

Still, the willingness to stand up to the nagging of Quebec nationalists instead of appeasing it, to say this is a great country so love it or leave it, is an important sign that an addiction to groveling is not a core Canadian value. We know perfectly well this country doesn’t stink, and if you’re not happy here there’s something wrong with you and you can take your complaints to people who care in some loser place like the UN.

As I said, Happy Canada Day. And if your “national” day was last week, we don’t want to hear about it.

Categories: Contributor Columns

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5 comments

  1. David Innes says:

    Thanks, John–good comments. Only one thing I disagree with, & that is the expression “Canada Day.” I’m old enough to remeber when it was properly called “Dominion Day.” A number of years ago, the federal parliament at about 4:15 0n a Friday afternoon with about 15 members in the House & with no previous warning or discussion,the liberals under that *** P.E.T. changed it to Canada Day on some sleazy,flimsy excuse that the word “Dominion” somwhow referred to Britain’s dominion over us & insulted Kaybec, when in fact it came from the biblical expression “And He shall have dominion from sea to sea.” Today I flew the Union Jack–I too can be proud of my ancestry & I also wore my t-shirt that says “Give me back my Dominion Day”.
    Besides “Canada Day” is so insipid. I’ll say “Happy July 1st”, but I refuse to say “Happy Canada Day”

  2. Rich says:

    Good points John except for one paragraph The praise for Canada’s military and overspending like Mcguinty; First no Prime Minister has done more for the Canadian Forces that Prime Minister Harper, No Prime Minister has done more to instill a pride in Canada and the Canadian Flag than our current Prime Minister Stephen Harper. As for meddling in Canadian affairs, PMSH has given provinces and the Canadian people more responsibilty for their own affairs, by eliminating the nanny statism of previous left wing governments: Mr Harper although reducing Corporate and personal income taxes has also paid down the largest amount on Canada’s national debt which by the way was left to us by Pierre Elliot Trudeau. If you Mulroney’s legacy from 1984 – 1994 you will notice that Mr Mulroney also ran balanced budgets what put him into deficits was the 30 billion dollars annual payment to finance Trudeau’s debt. So much for the liberal party’s astute fiscal management

  3. Rich says:

    If you Mulroney’s legacy
    correction : If you ‘review’ Mulroney’s legacy

  4. JP says:

    I liked the column, but our fellow Canadian citizens tend to forget an important factor that make the previous efforts vain. Canada is a political entity that was voted in 1867 by 268 387 voters on a population of 3 230 000… That is a limited suffrage I dare saying. Who were those 268 387 people? Most likely upper middle class and rich land owners, proto industrialists, few francophones. Not even 10% of the population decided for the sake of 3 million. It sad with our standards,

    Who knew within the three English provinces how difficult it would be to try to reconciliate both nations? With the extension toward the universal suffrage, more people started to disagree with the deal and expressed their discontent by voting nationalist governments, increasing the clivage between the enemy brothers. Pro-empire in Ontario (brilliantly represented here by David Innes) and pro-canadiens in Quebec. Then the disputes over the status in Manitoba, and so on…

    You know, we’ll never get along John. Asking for a bit of equality an a bit of fairness is too much for you. So if equality is too much for you, that means you want domination. And that’s where I see your comment starting to turn toxic. It’s unfortunate after all we’ve seen in history that intellectuals are still able to twist their minds in such extremist fashion. Please, excuse Marie-France, or Isabelle, or Nadine who didn’t love you in university. It’s not the fault of your proud roots, it’s all about what we see on the picture that accompanied this column.

    Have a good day

  5. Elaine says:

    Oh my. Your views are so nuanced and your lack of bigotry is so apparent, that you have opened my mind to a whole new Canadian perspective. You have blindsided me with your discerning journalistic acumen. Not only were you able to grasp with such amazing clarity the complexity of over two hundred years of history, but you demonstrated a great capacity for delivering your aphoristic comments with perfect Canadian aplomb (pardon the french word).

    If only the Right Honourable Stephen Harper (and other politicians) could take a few notes from your rant. Why make room for shades of gray when black and white have proven to be much better approaches? Why not make prejudiced, bigoted and antipathetic (and sometimes borderline sexist) comments about places and a people we don’t even know when history has proven this approach goes a long way to smoothing out differences? Why not make sweeping generalizations about a entire nation to get our patriotic views across? It is Canada day after all and I am so clearly a true representative of Canadian sentiment (49% is in fact the same amount of people that voted YES more than fifteen years ago).

    What saddens me the most is that there are too few people like you. People who judge without having a clue, people who would rather use their energy in being angry than in trying to grasp a true understanding of the political and cultural nuances that make up our country.

    I lack the type of refined insight you so clearly possess so please forgive my attempt at mimicking your approach. First order of business (if you will allow me to express my own thoughts): People in Quebec don’t hate Canada–they just love Quebec more. (They might dislike people like you, but that is totally understandable, we cannot blame anyone for harbouring such feelings). And maybe this is what pains some Canadians so much. It hurts to be second, to be told we prefer our kind to yours. We don’t hate you, but we don’t love you as much as you’d like us to. It reminds me of the sentiment sometimes expressed by Canadians in regards to their southern neighbours. Canada wants to be loved; they don’t want to be “friends” (is that what Nadine told you?). Does Canada lack so much confidence that having a province that loves its language more, its culture more, its institutions more is hurting the Canadian ego? It would be kind of ironic in that case to be likening Quebecois to whining spoiled children, no? Does it hurt your patriotic feelings when a province throws a wicked party to celebrate its existence? Was the music at your neighbour’s house louder than at your party and they didn’t invite you? That would be maddening, indeed.

    It matters little what you think or what I think because in the end the People decide and am I ever glad that perhaps a little less than 49% think like you. Maybe Canada has some hope after all.

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