IS CANADA IMMORTAL? David Watts, 21 October 2000
Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau raised this when he said, “Canada is not immortal, just as Athens was not immortal.”
We need to be clear what we mean when we ask this question.
As long as there are people living on the northern half of North America, there will be something in what we now call Canada.
Whether it will be much like the Canada we know is something else.
What is it that makes up Canada? What are the qualities we value here?
It’s not the boundaries—those have changed many times over the years.
Is it our flag and other symbols? The maple leaf flag is only forty years old.
Is it our system of government? That, too, has changed and is still changing.
In the last 500 years we’ve had at least 10 flags and as many systems of government.
Even our name isn’t that old: once we were called “New France”, then “Quebec” then “British North America.” “Canada” was only one of the names we looked at in 1866.
Would we be much different if we’d chosen another name: if we were Acadians, say, instead of Canadians—if Canada was part of Acadia, instead of the other way around?
So what is it about our country which, if it lasts, we can point and say “That’s Canada”?
As long as there are expanses of untamed land where we can go and feel the stillness…
As long as there are people who are very different living side by side without conflict…
As long as there are rights and freedoms we each have that no one can take away, and our leaders must bow and be evaluated before their fellow citizens…
As long as we look out for each other, and share what we have when others need it…
As long as our symbols reflect the land and not our leaders…
As long as these things last, the spirit of Canada will be alive and strong.
And if the time comes when most people on Earth hold these values, there may not need to be a Canada bounded by three oceans and the 49th parallel.
Then Canada will not have ended but have achieved her reason for being: “Dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
Vive le Canada! May her spirit live long in human consciousness.
(400 words, 2 min. 25 sec. reading time)