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Canada - Introduction

Canadian society today stems largely from the English-speaking and French-speaking Christian civilizations that were brought here from Europe by settlers. English and French define the reality of day-to-day life for most people and are the country's official languages. The federal government is required by law to provide services throughout Canada in English and French. Today, there are 18 million Anglophones - people who speak English as a first language - and 7 million Francophones - people who speak French as their first language. While the majority of Francophones live in the province of Quebec, one million Francophones live in Ontario, New Brunswick, and Manitoba, with a smaller presence in other provinces. New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province.

The majority of Canadians were born in this country and this has been true since the 1800s. However, Canada is often referred to as a land of immigrants because, over the past 200 years, millions of newcomers have helped to build and defend our way of life. Many ethnic and religious groups live and work in peace as proud Canadians. The largest groups are the English, French, Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Chinese, Aboriginal, Ukrainian, Dutch, South Asian, and Scandinavian. Since the 1970s, most immigrants have come from Asian countries.

There is a deep and widespread conviction of the Canadians that they are evolving a national type superior to that of their neighbour to the south. By comparison, the American is held to be fickle, vainglorious, materialistic, and inhuman.

The foundation of Canadian nationalism was the confederation of the provinces, consummated in 1867, and presently followed by the construction of railways to connect the territory of the Dominion from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Confederation was mooted originally as a device for minimizing the friction between Ontario and Quebec - a system of political co-operation under which the people of the former would be able to preserve their British nationality, and the people of the latter their French nationality. The Dominion did not stretch from ocean to ocean until 1871, when British Colombia joined the Confederation. The fact that the idea expanded into the conception of a federation embracing the whole of British North America seems to have been due to a determination, common to both races, to remain under the Union Jack rather than accept the Stars and Stripes.

At that time the risks of American aggression appeared acute. The Civil War had left the North in a hostile temper towards England, which found expression in Fenian raids against Canada, and seemed likely to develop further at any moment. The treaty of reciprocity, dating from 1854, under which Canadian trade had flourished for ten years, had been denounced, to make way for the policy of starving Canada by high duties upon her products. Congress passed a Bill for the admission of the Canadian provinces as American States; and England was recommended to hand over the country by way of compensation for the "Alabama" damages, and other offences against the victorious North.

In English-speaking Canada the main force behind confederation was the spirit of the United Empire Loyalists, the descendants of the original exiles from revolted America, who received that title in recognition of their self-sacrificing devotion to the British flag. More than 40,000 people loyal to the Crown, called "Loyalists," fled the oppression of the American Revolution to settle in Nova Scotia and Quebec. French-Canadians supported the policy because for them the flag was the guarantee of certain privileges granted under the Quebec Act of 1774, which settled the status of the conquered province, and remains the cherished charter of its people. These privileges included the official recognition of the French language, the French civil law, and the established Roman Catholic Church; none of which would be legitimate under the constitution of an American State.

The attitude of the United Empire Loyalists towards the Americans naturally had been one of bitter resentment, like the attitude towards England which the Americans, by their school books and other means, continued to cultivate at least up to the Spanish War. After confederation, the story of the Loyalists became part of Canadian national history, and impregnated the new national sentiment with an element of antagonism to the United States which remained a pronounced characteristic of Canadian nationalism.

Indeed, it may be said that Canadian nationalism was founded upon a repugnance to American nationalism. For there is no ethnological or geographical reason why the political boundary which is drawn arbitrarily along the 49th parallel upon the map should have become the line of a national division. The question of the Canadian future was the question whether that repugnance would continue. If it rested on permanent grounds, then national independence would remain the supreme object of Canadian statesmanship.

In the 21st Century Canada and the United States enjoyed a bilateral relationship unique in the world. It is forged by shared geography, similar values, common interests, deep social connections and powerful, multi-layered economic ties. The result is a long-standing, deep and enviable partnership. As sovereign nations, with at times divergent interests, the two countries are sometimes confronted by difficult issues. Disagreements, such as those on softwood lumber and on beef imports, have tested the relationship. But on every occasion, because they are good neighbours and have so much in common, solutions have been found. At its core, the Canada-U.S. relationship is so strong, so mutually important, that the two nations realize the common interests that unite them are far greater than the irritants that may momentarily divide them.

There will certainly continue to be times when Canada and the U.S. disagree. No relationship with the depth, complexity and scale of these two countries' can be trouble-free. But the positive aspects of the relationship far outweigh the negative-and enable the two countries to work together to overcome them.

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Page last modified: 06-05-2021 17:06:27 ZULU