CANADA, A GLOBAL VISION © David Watts 15/07/2000

Canadian Specific ®

When we hear the mantra “Think global”, it’s often enjoining us to set aside narrow local ways of looking at things to take a larger view.

Canada has had a global vision from the beginning—in fact, it can be said that what is now Canada was conceived in a global perspective.

Canada was first inhabited by visitors from Asia who crossed the Berring land bridge during the Ice Age.

Canada was “discovered” by Europeans in their quest to find the Northwest Passage to Asia.

So Canada has been a meeting place for the world, for Europe and Asia, for a long time.

Lachine, Quebec was named sarcastically by Jacques Cartier when he came to the rapids and realized that the St. Lawrence was not going to be that passage.

But this “China” became the start of another voyage: the passage inland by the voyageurs of the North West Company.

Churchill, Manitoba, became the beachhead for their rivals of the Hudson Bay Company, named after another famous—and unsuccessful—explorer.

The voyageurs of both companies—Peter Pond, Alexander McKenzie and others—continued the search for the Passage by land, which others pursued by sea.

It was the land explorers who were more successful. When almost half of the continent was carved off to form a new national state—the USA—Canada continued to embody an international vision.

The voyageurs’ link from the lakehead to the Rockies along the Saskatchewan River system established a line that eventually was followed by the railway and guaranteed Canada’s place as a land bridge between two oceans.

We often teach our history as if Canada was an end in itself—as if we first joined the eastern colonies at Confederation, then built a railway to include a western one. When that was done, we set out to trade with the Far East.

Actually, it was the other way around. It was the push to complete the Northwest Passage by land—as early as 1831—that made Britain open to confederate her North American colonies as the first step in that global linkup.

While the C.P.R. was being built, its goal as an Asia trade connector helped its backers “hang in” against incredible odds and costs of building across Canada.

Thirty years before King George V selected red and white as Canada’s colours, and more than seventy years before we got the red & white maple leaf flag, CP.President William Cornelius Van Horne designed a distinctive red & white flag that became Canada’s trademark around the globe.

The red and white checkerboard of Canadian Pacific Steamships was flown by the Empress of India when she sailed into Vancouver to link up with the Railway.

With Canadian Pacific Steamships on Atlantic and Pacific Oceans joined by a land portage by rail, the dream of the Northwest Passage was achieved.

Forty-five years later C.P. adopted the slogan “Canadian Pacific spans the World”.

This became more than smart advertising copy by a successful company. It summed up, in a phrase, Canada’s place in the modern world.

To those who speak a Romance language, Canadian Pacific means more than an ocean or railway

It conveys the quality of peacefulness for which Canada is respected around the world—a quality enshrined in our national symbol, the Peace Tower.

While other countries are scrambling to re-define themselves in the global context, Canada is re-discovering her original reason for being.

The lack of a single national language, religion or culture that seemed a liability for a nation state has become an asset in an age of internationalism:

The stone the builders rejected—pluralism—has become the keystone”.

Our lack of defining edges, our ability to listen to and understand others, has made us ambassadors in the global village—a phrase coined by a Canadian.

The word Kanata means“group of huts, village or meeting place” That’s what we are in the world

Canada’s motto, “Dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the Earth”, is more than an expansionist slogan or a bygone National Dream.

It is a prophecy of the oneness of humankind that’s becoming a Global Reality.

The Company of Adventurers and the Railway that crisscrossed and opened our land have been co-creators of it as much as the Canadian state has.

This partnership of corporate and state sectors, this co-valence of local and global vision, offers the world a model for creative, sustainable development.

To think globally” for Canadians is not to discard or dismantle our national heritage in favour of an ill-defined homogenized cultural mush.

It is to be what and who we are—unashamedly and without pretensions—in the context of a wider consciousness in which others can be what they are.

Hear then, the voice of Canada in the global world: “Now I am perturbed. What shall I say then, ‘Deliver me from this hour!’?

No! For this cause I have come to this hour. Let the divine splendour be manifest through me.”

(850 words, 5 min. 20 sec. reading time; recorded to Mozart Symphony No. 29 in A major)