On the 1st of July, we celebrated Canada Day, orCanada’s “birthday”, that was realized on July 1st, 1867 with the ConstitutionAct of 1867. Basically, with this act, the three separate colonies of theProvince of Canada (Quebec and Ontario), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick wereunited under a Dominion within the British Empire called “Canada”. As you cansee, it is not really an independence as such, but the creation of the firstnucleus that will evolve slowly into what we call “Canada” today. It was thefirst act towards the complete independence of the country that was realizedwith the Constitution Act of 1982.
With this article, it is not my intent to five you ahistory lesson, but to analyze what is a nation, and what that means forCanada, since on the news or elsewhere we hear phrases such as “across thenation”, “national security”, “national TV”, or “national anthem”, etc. As wecan see, the word “nation” is used often. But what constitutes a nation, andcan the residents of a country such as Canada be considered a nation?
According to Herodotus, a nation is a sum of peopledefined by a common ancestry, a common religion, a common language, and acommon culture. Basically, it is an entity that has a common manner ofcommunication.
So, according to Herodotus, but also according toscientists of the German School of Thought, the characteristics of a nation aredefined by a common ancestry, a common language and common traditions,something that is totally true for nations such as the Greeks, the Germans, orSerbian, etc.
On the other hand, the Americans, the Russians, theSwiss, the Canadians and others identify themselves as nations, withoutfulfilling all the characteristics of a nation according to Herodotus or theGerman School of Thought, in general. For example, they differ in language likethe Swiss or do not have a common tradition like the Americans or theCanadians. That is why, other scientists, those of the French School ofThought, support that the main defining element of a nation is having the senseof community, the sense that the people comprise a nation, a nationalcommunity, and the way is which they identify themselves is common.
But, if we compare the level of national identity andunity, it is obvious that the Americans for instance, or the Russians, are morepatriotic and have a more heightened sense of national identity than theCanadians. Why is that? Maybe we need to start at the beginning, how thesenations were formed. Let’s take Canada and the U.S.A. for example: in contrastto Canada whose independence was granted, the Americans fought for theirs.Later they also went through a civil war. Their war of independence from theBritish Empire and later their civil war, identified and forged them into anational community with common values, purpose and vision. Similarly, theGreeks fought for their independence from a foreign nation, the Ottomans, theyalso went through a civil war, and have constantly waged wars or participatedin social struggles since antiquity.
Where I want to go with this is that it seems, apartfrom the defining characteristics of national identity or consciousness asthose are defined by Herodotus, the German or French Schools of Thought, thereis also the factor of common struggles, be they struggles for independence froma foreign nation, social struggles as was the French Revolution for example, orpolitical struggles as are civil wars, or revolutions against some regime, aswas the revolution against the dictatorship in Greece in 1974.
So, the struggles of a sum of people, where many times youneed to give your life, this in my opinion, constitutes one of the strongestmotives to form a national consciousness or identity. And I ask myself, whichstruggles for independence or social struggles have the Canadians accomplished?And if they fought against the U.S.A. in the war of 1812, where they boast thatthey burned the White House down, did they fight as Canadians or as Britishcolonists? The same is true for their participation in the world wars. Andcoming back today of multicultural Canada: who feels Canadian and why? What unitesthem and defines them as Canadians? How about the francophones of Canada, how“Canadian” do they feel? Every now and then, they want to do a referendum tosecede from Canada. And if we were to agree that the Canadians do constitute anation according to the French School of Thought, if there is a war, say ahypothetical invasion of Canada by another country, who will fight for Canada?Will its residents unite in a common front, or will they scatter and each onewill go to their own country of origin? When you haven’t fought for anynational or social ideals as a united entity, what does unite you? When thingsare just given to you and you haven’t struggled for them, will you value themor take them for granted? So, what is the future of Canada? If hard timesbefall Canada like an invasion or social turmoil, will Canada be able tosurvive, or will it disintegrate? If it is to survive, then a strong nationalidentity is required. How can Canada accomplish that on its ethnic and culturaldiversity of its residents?