© David W. Watts


Canada, the “country that is not a country” in the words of one of our premiers, is an inescapable reality that cannot be defined.

We’ve never been unified the way 19th century nation states were.

Canada reflects geography but it is not a geographical expression. Most of our landforms we share with our southern neighbour.

The boundary between us is an artificial survey line that cuts across the natural contours of the land rather than following them.

Our economy, too, is a satellite of the continental American one. Treaties such as NAFTA simply legitimize our satellite status.

We have no single religion, language or culture. Many other states lack one of these, some lack two. Very few are without all three.

We have no one history. Compare textbooks in Ontario, BC and Quebec, and you’d think we were talking of different countries.

Take away all those, and what’s left? Why do we stay together?

Canada exists for one reason: simply because we choose it to be.

Canada is a country of choice, not only for our latest immigrants.

Practically all the peoples and regions that now make up Canada are here as the result of a conscious decision.

It was Quebec’s decision not to join the Thirteen Colonies in 1775 that led to a continuing British presence in inland North America.

The maritimes made a similar choice, as did British Columbia later.

Even Louis Riel’s Red River regime ignored American overtures, and chose to bargain with Canada to come in as a province.

Alberta and Saskatchewan were the only provinces created by Ottawa. The others had governments of their own, and came in by bargaining.

Canada’s provinces and territories joined because they had values they wanted preserved. Recognition of differences was one of these.

This one reason for being together is the supremely sensible one. We bring far more energy to what we choose than to what we accept.

Canada is the one modern state that exists without any of the common features that hold other states together.

Our reason for being—choice—is the one reason for nationhood in the post-national world of the 21st century. We’re already there.