25 August 2003

Canada, the country whose name means “meeting place,” has come about through a coming together of regions across a half continent and traditions from around the world.

In this it is a planetary microcosm, a manifesting of Earth’s coming together.

We think immediately of 1867 as a year when three colonies came together in a new relationship that created a federal dominion of four provinces.

Confederation was simply one stage of this process. The coming together that is Canada has been going on for a much longer time.

When the representatives from Canada East and West came in on the act, three Atlantic colonies were already meeting to discuss a maritime union.

Three of our current provinces exist as a result of earlier unions:

Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia joined together in 1820.

Newfoundland and Labrador had joined earlier that century.

British Columbia and Vancouver Island were joined later, in 1866.

Before that were alliances of first peoples such as the Six Nations of the Iroquois and the Blackfoot and Cree Confederacies.

Canada was not alone among the states of the world in coming together when she did:

Germany and Italy came together in the last half of the 19th century too.

A century earlier the Thirteen Colonies joined to become the United States.

Earlier still the United Kingdom, France and Spain came together from smaller units.

What is unique about Canada is the way and the reasons for which she came together.

Canada was the first state to come together not by conquest, revolution or civil war.

Other new states were formed because they shared a common language, ethnicity, ideology or economy or because they faced a common adversary,

Though some of these were secondary factors in Canada’s coming together, our Confederation did not rest on these foundations.

Canada’s coming together was a result of shared spiritual values expressed under the pragmatic phrase of “peace, order and good government.”

The nation states born out of ethnicity spawned the nationalistic wars of the 20th century.

The states born out of ideology fed the Catholic-Protestant wars of the 16th century, and the capitalist-Marxist struggles of the 20th.

The great empires, including the world’s one remaining superpower, depend on force of arms and economic control to hold their place in the world.

Canada’s cohesion has been a voluntary one, based on choice alone.

It has not been an easy journey, however.

Parts of Canada have periodically revisited their choice to belong to the whole. Our collective reasons for staying together have created a marathon of constitutional talks.

That is a source of our vitality. Our staying together in an evolving world requires that we continue to stretch to accommodate the evolution of the parts that make up the whole.

States based on sameness will always have pockets of difference that must be assimilated or subjugated to prevent their splitting off.

A state based on the inclusion of differences is virtually unlimited in its potential.

In matters that touch on essential values, the Canadian state and its constitution can be modified only by agreement of all the parts that make it up.

Some see this as unwieldiness. Rather it is a sign of inventiveness and adaptability.

If unanimity is required, then no one part can be excluded, ignored or made a perennial outsider. Each is important, for the federation depends on the cohesion of all.

This makes the Canadian experience a model for world government. It commits us to a process of continued consultation—to be the “meeting place” our name proclaims we are.

It keeps a door of hope open to humanity as a whole.

Programs and politics, empires and ideologies will pass away.

The spirit of inclusion—the recognition of our oneness—will never become obsolete.