ON BEING & BECOMING: THE CANADIAN CONSENSUS
© David Watts
Canada is a state born in consensus and held together by spiritual values.
In our emergence we have experienced the energy and influence of three empires:
the French world of culture, diplomacy and “equality and fraternity”
the American dream of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”
and the British sense of duty and fair play in administering a United Kingdom of four peoples often under foreign monarchs who spoke languages other than English.
It was the British model that Canada followed most closely in her institutions.
Our choice of “Peace, Order and Good Government” was not a choice against freedom.
It was for freedom of a different sort—not to bear arms, demonstrate, make speeches and run for office. Most of these political freedoms came later.
It was a freedom not to do things but to be what we are, to become what we will.
This permissive freedom meant different things to different Canadians:
For some it mean the freedom to use an ancestral language and customs, not just at home but in the workplace, and in dealing with government.
For others it means freedom to dissent from the mainstream while living in it—
—the freedom not to bear arms while others were calling for conscription
—the freedom to wear religious symbols in the uniform of our national police force.
Other nations have allowed freedom of religion to individuals and families:
Few have gone so far to include minority collective rights in our public life.
Confederation was an agreement to let go of the attempt of the Act of Union of 25 years earlier, to build a single society with majority rule.
Many of the Fathers of Confederation saw democracy as “tyranny of the majority.” They chose instead to create a framework where differences could be preserved.
The One Canada of John Diefenbaker and Pierre Trudeau, in the Bill of Rights and Charter of Rights and Freedoms they gave us, is a reality in its invitation to join an adventure.
Any attempt to force that oneness—to make participation in rituals proof of our belonging—denies that reality, and the very nature and spirit of who we are.
Defining Canada is a dead end road. Discovering Canada, allowing Canada, nurturing Canada, enabling Canada—these are fruitful avenues of exploration.
This is the Canadian consensus: to offer the acceptance and stability where our peoples can be and become a meeting place—Kanata—in a world without boundaries.