There is a signature mildness to the Canadian psyche that can only be understood by the two foreboding entities that have always threatened to engulf it: the Great White North looming above and the most powerful military-industrial nation in the world below—the United States.
For most of Canada’s existence, perched on a thin line across the 49th parallel, survival has necessitated that we learn to bargain, compromise and negotiate our existence. Going it alone has never been a possibility.
So it should come as no surprise that Canadian identity itself has come to be a delicate act of negotiation. After finally stepping out from under its European fathers (France and Britain), Canada is neglecting its core connection to its mother (indigenous Canada) without whose care and welcome Canada wouldn’t exist.
Now adolescent, Canada is learning how to flex its underdeveloped muscles in the face of its bigger brothers, the USA and the mythical barrens. And like any teenager, Canada is rebelling against its parents, older siblings and outside authority in a desperate attempt to create an identity of its own. It has enough guns, money and resource extraction technology to club its survival memory to bits. But the question is: what kind of nation will Canada be when it grows up? When this teenage rebellion phase is over, will it honor the first peoples who made Canada possible? Will it remember the land that shaped it?
Recent political events have threatened to push Canada into a more confrontational ‘bro’ state mode, offering insight into where the country could go if the current conservative agenda of PM Stephen Harper isn’t held in check. The land of the Montreal Protocal, the Kyoto Accord and Greenpeace has done an about face on the environment ... lording over the most ecologically destructive project in the history of humanity—the Tar Sands in Alberta. No longer a place of mystery, respect and foreboding awe, the land is seen as a gigantic milkshake waiting for a fat kid to slurp it up. And as the relationship to the land changes, from survival to total domination, from rural to urban, so too has Canada’s outlook upon most of the world.
In less than two decades, Canada has transformed from a global peacekeeping leader to a militarized mini-America. It seems that rebellious Canada wants out of its soft shell ... wants to show off at the senior prom, kick somebody’s ass, rip through a keg stand and start a fist pump wave as the other jocks look on with a sleezy nod of approval. When Canada matures and makes it out of this stage, hopefully the shame of the sideways hat and baggy pant days won’t cut too deep.