Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Haldimand "What Happened to Canadian Patriotism"

What happened to Canadian Patriotism?

Recent developments in both Canada and the United States have led me to ask the question “what happened to Canadian Patriotism?” I have often poked fun at the Americans for their over the top patriotic nature, for example when Richard Nixon lied through his teeth on public television and became a total disgrace to his “fellow Americans” and the day after his impeachment was forgiven by the majority because they felt sorry for him after his public disgrace, or the way the majority of Americans took George W. Bush at his word after the 911 attack and eagerly followed him into Iraq only to find out once again that the real truth behind the attack and the ensuing war in Iraq may never be known. I remember watching and listening to Ray Charles on a television special a few years ago as he sang “America The Beautiful” and brought tears to my eyes and wondering how a black American could feel so devoutly patriotic to a country whose government had for so long allowed his people to be degraded, enslaved and forced to live for the most part in abject poverty. I simply could not understand how people could devote themselves so strongly to a country whose leaders and political philosophy could treat so many of its people so badly. Then yesterday I watched as the first black American was inaugurated as President and I saw that same patriotism shine through in the huge crowds of all in attendance and it finally hit home, their patriotism is what makes them strong. Their patriotic nature is as powerful a feeling as the unconditional love you can only seem to get from a young child or a loyal dog. Patriotism is what makes America the strongest and most powerful nation in the world!

And then there is Canada. Here we have some (although I believe it is now a small minority of) Quebecers who want to separate Quebec from Canada and a number of Canadians outside Quebec (I believe a larger number than the Quebec minority) who wish they would. We have the oil rich Albertans who don’t think it’s fair that they should be expected to share their wealth with the rest of Canadians although they don’t talk about separation in the physical sense and we have Ontario where Torontonians seem to live with the impression that without them the rest of the province would shrivel up and die and resent the rest of us for stealing their wealth. We have some of the hardest working, heartiest and most generous Canadians doing everything they can to make a living in our Maritime Provinces and many other Canadians looking down their noses at them for it and wishing they would separate along with Quebec. Where is the patriotism? How did it get lost? How do we get it back? What do we have to do to become a country again rather than a collection of provinces?

Canadians collectively have a great deal to be proud of. Our armed forces have served and served well to protect the free world in times of need during two world wars and beyond. We live in a vast geographical area with an abundance of natural resources, wildlife, rivers lakes and streams. We have some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world; Niagara Falls, the Rocky Mountains, the Bay of Fundy and the Canadian Shield to name a few. Our Prairie Provinces produce food for a large part of the world and our coastal fisheries feed millions. We have one of the best health care systems in the world and even the poorest of us are rich beyond the dreams of many in third world countries. Canadian people in general are some of the biggest hearted, most caring and giving people on the planet. So why aren’t we proud to be Canadian? Why aren’t we happy to be Canadian? Why don’t we stand up and shout to the world with swollen chests and heads held high “WE ARE CANADIAN AND DAMN PROUD OF IT”? I don’t know! I don’t have the answer. That’s why I’m writing this, I’m hoping you do. I’m hoping that someone out there knows what it will take to bring back Canadian patriotism because I’m afraid that without it this great nation will cease to exist. Of course though, should that happen we will no doubt become Americans in which case they will definitely teach us what patriotism is all about.

So please, if you have the answer or answers share with us and if you don’t have the answer forward this letter along to your contacts because I know someone out there does.



  1. I am a proud Canadian as well. I am also proud of the contributions Canadians are making around the world. Though I try to base my judgment on the issues and the facts (as I think you do as well). I have pride in my country but I would not want to be considered a patriot.

    From a media and political perspective an appeal to patriotism is a slippery slope towards uncritical thinking. An appeal to patriotism (or nationalism) in any political discourse should be treated with suspicion as it attempts to either disarm people through the use of emotion and warm and fuzzy national references. It generally attempts to avoid critical and practical thinking by focusing on intangibles. A problem with the media’s patriotic focus is that it points away from serious thought and honest discussion. It tends to be patronizing…. It’s complicated, don’t bother thinking about it, just do what we say because we are ting it into feelings, symbols, emotions that have been part of life since before you could speak…. Very powerful stuff and dangerous in the wrong hands.

    Patriotism generally allows for little discourse. Those taking a dissenting opinion are generally branded as unpatriotic (and enemy sympathizers; think about parliament a couple years back). In the extreme patriotism means no questions (“you’re either wit’us or a’gin us). Another example is use of national or symbols to build emotional support (think links to Hockey and Tim Horton’s in many recent political events). Then again, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar (or a double double as the case may be). The key thing is that everyone needs to have a healthy level of skepticism with respect to patriotism, the media and the government.

    My $0.02

    Side note: “…and eagerly followed him into Iraq ….” Just to be clear. He was not eagerly followed into Iraq…. The government was itching to get into Iraq but the public had no interest in it initially. All humanitarian appeals were falling flat. They had to launch a 4 month intensive media blitz building on trumped up evidence on weapons of mass destruction before they could be swayed (and even then they just managed to cross the threshold of minimal support), Patriotism was one of the tools used to get into the conflict and main popular opinion. The media was very complicit here (flashback to the flight suit and the cessation of hostilities).


  2. Whooee! I figger Canajuns is just as patriotic as Merkans only we don't wear it on our sleeves like they do. I love Canada. I get a little choked up when a buncha people stand up and sing O Canada.

    But Fotis is right. Uncritical love of country and placing of one's own country on a pedestal is not to be desired. That ain't patriotism. It's nationalism.

    We can love of our country without loving corrupt leaders. We can't really love our beautiful land with it's sparklin' waters an' fertile soil an' woodlands an' mountains an' fauna without bein' critical of a gummint that puts money over Mother Earth.

    More than a hunnert years ago, Mark Twain scoffed at those so-called patriots who lived by the credo: "My country, right or wrong." Wrong is wrong. You don't love the wrongness. You put it right. Bracko knows wrong when he sees it and that's why he put the kibosh on Gitmo and torturin'.


  3. Way to go Fotis an JimBobby. Patriotism is a stick that those who benefit from their government's actions use against those who are used by those same actions - as hewers of wood and haulers of minerals. In most societies those at the top do little for the bottom of the heap.
    Rather than demand patriots, let's demand healthy people living in healthy communities and a healthy country. Then DEFINE "health"! For starters - clean air, clean drinkable water, safe, toxin-free food, clean, warm shelter.....................

  4. I am Proud to be Canadian, but I don't feel the need to stand on the mountain top and shout it out! Whenever I am at an event and O Canada is sung, I get a bit chocked with emotion. I feel that Canadians are a more rounded people, and we certainly don't trust our lives to elected officials, as we have seen too often how they abuse the honour that they are given when elected. I proudly fly a Canadian flag all year round just like many of our American friends. I believe that patriotism is alive and well in Canada, just not in the same way as the Americans.

  5. We care about our selves: more then others!!!

    What happen to Ipperwash & Caledonia good examples!!
    It was an attack on Canada but it was their problem???

    To many III's to many mememe's

    It would take GOOD leader ship but NOT going to happen: to amny sheep!!!

    Jim Smith

  6. Thanks for your comments.

    I hope that Steve got the answers that he was looking for. I look forward to his response!