Dominion Institute Does It Again

According to the Dominion Institute Canadians have a strong national
identity and they know it.

Rudyard Griffiths reports in the National Post (July 14): the Institute’s
recent study discovered “that whether you are a man or a woman, young or
old, from Trois-Rivières or Tuktoyaktuk, the top 10 things that you think
define Canada typically will have six or more items that are also on the
lists of each of your fellow 32 million Canucks.” Good news, eh? Well, yes.

What “items?”  To list a few that figured prominently in the top-10 lists
from coast to coast to coast: the Maple Leaf, the Canadarm, the beaver, the
federal Parliament, and Canada Day.

Griffiths concludes, “We are not as we have been endlessly told, a disparate
nation of regions, ethnic groups or linguistic communities. We are people
that enjoy, and benefit from a set of widely shared understandings about the
fundamentals of our identity … It is high time that we cast off the
erroneous belief that Canadians are incapable of sustaining a strong
national identity grounded in common symbols, heroes, places and events.”

One of the most interesting findings is that the top-10 lists of immigrants
were very like those of the broader public.

But do immigrants come to this country to consort with beavers, rake maple
laves, watch fire works? Beavers, leaves, technical accomplishments,
Parliament: are these “items” what make this a country that people are
lining up to get into?

Do we have troops in Afghanistan to defend the beavers, trees, and
politicians? Of course I’m glad to see that Parliament is showing up on the
lists. But just what about Parliament was in respondents’ minds?

What the heck is it that makes this a country to be proud of? On this
subject the Dominion Institute has nothing to say.

1 Response to “Dominion Institute Does It Again”

  1. 1 oonae July 16, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Your argument reminds me of the wrangling that took place a few years ago in my Modern Jewish Experience class. The 30 or so kids in the class (about 25 of whom were Jews) could not decide collectively on what made a Jew a Jew. For some it came down to religious belief, but Judaism has no prescribed creed. For some it came down to culture, but there are several different Jewish cultures. For some it came down to a genetic inheritance, but this is simply incorrect — at any rate it’s hardly comprehensive. The only thing we could decide for sure is that anyone who accepted Christ as his saviour was *not* a Jew, no matter what other Jewish characteristics he had.

    This suggests some strong correlations between Jews and Canadians, at least on the question of identity. Neither group can come up with definitive criteria. Both can come up with a single negative criterion — not Christian, or not American — but, though this brings with it a sense of collectivity that much stronger because it is beleaguered, it’s debatable whether it gets at anything real, and, too, it seems a bit shameful to define oneself only negatively. Finally, both groups have a sense of a shared culture, but that sense is probably largely false, and, more important, missing the point since, as you suggest, what they mean by culture is small potatoes. As you say, people don’t go to war to defend beavers (most people don’t anyway, I might) and they don’t maintain a sense of family for thousands of years on the basis of lox and bagels.

    Les Juifs et les Canadiens: même combat!

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