I AM CANADA © David Watts, 1999
Canadian Specific ®
I am Canada
I am one and I am many
To know my oneness is to understand my diversity
To know my diversity is to appreciate my oneness
I am a mirror, a microcosm of Earth: one centre, many faces
Look at me—and see yourself.
I am Canada the Land—an immense and open land:
Bounded by three oceans, the northern half of the northern continent of the New World
I am new and I am old:
the Selkirks are my backbonei, Rockies and Appalachians my limbs, the Laurentian Shield my midsection
the Fraser, Mackenzie, Churchill and St. Lawrence—arteries with myriad capillaries serving my heartland
And interconnecting huge inland lakes, fresh and pure
I am covered by grasses, by forest, by muskeg and by ice
My crown is the high arctic, where the people remember: as they call their home “the land,” Nunavut—so
I am Canada the Land.
I am Canada the People: people who were born in me
People who come to me to live
All people who choose me, to live in relationship with me
First Peoples who crossed the land bridge before history
Who named me “Nootka” and Schushwap,” Québec and “Mirimachi,” “Kanata” itself
people who called me New France, Montréal, and Grande Prairie
crisscrossing my waterways, trading with the First Peoples
I am people who called me British North America, Nova Scotia and New Westminister
I am people who are still coming: from India, from Africa, from Europe and Asia, from all over the earth
To these, and to those who live away but hold me in their hearts, I am Canada the people!
I am Canada the Spirit
The spirit of search and adventureii, of yearning for a better wayiii
The spirit of patient and orderly growthiv—
of not uprooting something because it is oldv
or rejecting something because it’s new and differentvi
Of not allowing any idea, individual or institution to dominatevii
The spirit of tolerance and understanding, of caring for my own, of living with others
I am Canada the Spirit
Hey, how about democracy and free enterprise—isn’t that part of it? And the social safety net
How about federalism? bilingualism? the monarchy? multiculturalism?
These are manifestations. They express the Canadian Spirit but they are not my spirit by themselves.
Canada has been a “Company of Adventures”
A Crown colony
A standoff, and later a partnership between peoples
An overseas province
An autonomous Dominion
And a decentralized federation
Our economy has been
continental free trade,
capitalist and social democratic.
These are forms—clothes we put on for different seasons—
Not to be confused with the spirit that underlies them.
As people grow and earth evolves, forms will go on changing—the Canadian spirit will find new ways of expression
Retaining what’s good adapting where it is needed
Canada has an unparalleled record of orderly change
500 years since the first European and Asiatic peoples met
at least ten flags and eight constitutions
the only modern state born without revolution or civil war
This is the Canadian Spirit—a heritage of which we can be proud.
I am Canada
Canada the Land
Canada the People
Canada the Spirit
I am many and I am one
But I do not exist for myself
I am a part, a face of Planet Earth
A sign of hope to other nations
That they may be one, as I am one
My land is a trust, to be an example of living in harmony with Earth
My people are a foster family, an opportunity to model community in the global village
My spirit is a sign of the connectedness of humankind
I am Canada, an awakening face of Planet Earth
I am Earth’s land
I am Earth’s people
I am Earth’s spirit—a gift of God, a warming wind,
A gentle breath circling the globe, till the word awakens to its oneness.
That is “dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
i Geologically the Selkirk mountains are the backbone of the continent, much order and harder than the later Rockies. It was the bridging of these mountains by Major A. B. Rogers between the Beaver and Illecillewaet Rivers that brought Canada together from sea to sea. Without Rogers Pass Canada would have remained a patchwork of British protectorates on the east coast and the St. Lawrence River system.
ii The explorers, traders and voyageurs
iii “They desire a better country…” (Hebrews 11: 16) is the motto inscribed on Order of Canada medals. It was the spirit that motivated Jeanne Mance and others of “Canada’s Pilgrim Mothers” to leave the opulence of France and establish a new kind of settlement in Ville Marie (Montréal): neither a military post nor trading one or even a mission “to convert the heathen” but a hospital for any in need. That is a model of the Canadian spirit at its best in the world.
iv An evolutionary state, not a revolutionary one
v Canada retained the institution of monarchy and transformed it from a symbol of imperialism (Empire) to one of community (Commonwealth). The Commonwealth of Nations took its present form as a result of Canada’s evolution to full autonomy within the British framework. The multicultural character of the Commonwealth has been upheld by Canada’s stand with the Third World nations, beginning with PR John Diefenbaker’s condemnation of South Africa over apartheid in 1961.
vi Responsible Government (accountability of cabinet to the lower house of the legislature) began in Canada in the 1840’s fifty years before it developed in Britain. The first democratic socialist government in the New World was the CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation) elected in Saskatchewan in 1944. Canada has borrowed from other countries including the concept behind our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and innovations such as provincial ombudsmen (co-opted from Scandinavian tradition), and Access to Information and Privacy Protection.
vii Pluralism is a keystone of Canadian life. Federalism, bilingualism, multiculturalism and the mixture of private and state enterprise in our economy are all examples of our unwillingness to identify any one single approach as The Canadian Way. Even our use of the monarchy serves this end. If Canada ever changed its connection with the British Crown, it’s highly unlikely we would go for an elected politician as head of state. A Prime Minister may wield power within the government, but public reveling in power is definitely not in keeping with the Canadian Spirit.