Do Canada’s Leaders Have the ‘Nads?

The stink being raised in Quebec over Governor General Michaele Jean talking up Quebec City’s 400th anniversary celebrations this year highlights Canadian politicians’ lack of vision and leadership.  There are two objections that Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe and others raise.  I disagree with one but agree with the other.

Separatists are offended by the idea that Ms Jean and the federal government are calling the celebration a Canadian celebration.  They say it is a Quebec celebration.  This is the one I disagree with.  Quebec is part of Canada and Quebec’s history is part of Canada’s history.  I studied it in school, too.  Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain made Canada possible.  They discovered and founded a French colony, not an independent country.  So, it is every bit as much Canada’s history as Quebec’s.

Where I agree with the separatists is their complaint that the Governor General represents the British queen.  This is a national embarassment that I wish the rest of the country would want to remedy as much as some Quebecers do.  As the queen’s representative, she is a reminder that we don’t even have our own head of state.  Separatists see the link to the British crown as a constant reminder of the capture of New France by the British about 250 years ago.  This is one of the biggest problems they have with the rest of Canada.  They think of the rest of us as the British conquerors and colonizers.  Why can’t we feel that humiliation and decide to do something about it?  I mean, really, borrowing someone else’s head of state?  Are we an independent country or not?  The separatists know they want to be one.  Maybe if the rest of the country felt the same way, we could get on the same page and move forward as one.  As one joke goes, Quebec can go as long as it takes the rest of us with it.

They aren’t the only ones who are offended and think we should have our own head of state.  When I was living overseas in London, I was asked several times why we didn’t “go with the Yanks”.  They don’t understand why we would maintain a link with them.  They were often offended to hear that the queen has the title Queen of Canada.  “What?  Now their taking our queen?”, they would say.  They don’t want to share her with us.  She’s their head of state.  Every country should have its own head of state.  They think like a country.

By contrast, a lot of people in Canada still want to share their head of state rather than have one of our own.  They think like colonials.  Many of these people are British immigrants or recent descendants of them who don’t want to let go.  Some may be descendants of United Empire Loyalists who cling to British roots partly out of bitterness over what their ancestors endured at the hands of their former neighbours.

This attitude is holding us back as a country.  Not only does it give separatists something to complain about, it permeates our political and business leadership.  Colonial style thinking is still widespread.  Fitting into others’ plans is the easier option than conceiving and executing our own.  Sending raw materials to bolder countries that know what they want to do with them is easier than making and marketing products.  Arguably, we’ve even been lazy about that.  I don’t agree with everything in it, but, as Andrew Cohen wrote in ‘While Canada Slept’, we don’t export to others so much as allow them to import from us.  If we still cling politically to our colonial connection to Britain, economically we look a lot like an American colony.

Letting go of mummy’s apron strings would go a long way towards alleviating the resentment felt by many separatists.  It would be a good investment in national unity.  It could also result in a new attitude and outlook among our political and business leaders – one that puts us first.  Maybe then, if we stop clinging to the past, we will start thinking about and planning for the future.  Maybe we could see leaders emerge with a vision of the future that extends beyond the next election.  Maybe we would see some forward planning, with short, medium, and long term goals.  They might even think about where this country could be at the end of this century, for example – long after they’re gone.

Vision.  Goals.  Planning.  Going your own way.  Takes balls.  Do we have ’em or not?

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9 Responses to “Do Canada’s Leaders Have the ‘Nads?”

  1. the chaplain Says:

    Good post. It’s probably time for Canada to move out of Mommy’s house and start a family of her own.

  2. paulmct Says:

    Thanks, Chaplain.

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  5. C. Fraser Says:

    The Queen as a power figure means little, but I agree with the symbolism it presents. It’s a good question as to what might happen with Canadian attitude if we actually did do something to separate ourselves from the Queen.

    Why do we still keep her as the Head of State? What are the reasons that she hasn’t been removed? I can’t believe that the royal family or Britain would care if we claimed our own Head of State.

  6. paulmct Says:

    Exactly, C.F. It’s a symbolic position that could easily be replaced with a largely ceremonial Head of State of our own. The same person could even hold the the new post the next day, if necessary. Ms Jean could be Governor General the day before and whatever we decided to call the position the next day. (The new title could just be Head of State for all I care).

  7. Sun Warrior Says:

    It would actually be an interesting exercise today, just to see how strong the monarchists still are, LOL!

    It seems like a no-brainer to do it, and easy enough to do to get political points for the politicos.

  8. Scott Says:

    I had no idea that Canada was still politically-linked with the U.K. So forgive me if I intrude (I’m a U.S. citizen)–but I totally agree with you!
    I would definitely support “letting go of mummy’s apron strings”–in fact, I’d insist on it!

    However, I do feel that Quebec should have total independence of Canada. Because I believe that any region or territory of a nation has the right to be independent of that nation, whatever the reason. And my understanding is that every time the question of indepedence for Quebec comes up for a vote, all Canadians are allowed to vote on it. In my opinion, only the people of Quebec should be allowed to vote on this issue. Because I also believe that this is the only fair way a region or territory can gain its independence. Only the people of that particular region or territory have the right to decide its path.

    And I am (hopefully) not biased, here. If Florida (where I reside) desired independence from the United States, even if I were opposed, I would still demand that only we, the people of Florida, be allowed to vote on the question of independence.

  9. paulmct Says:

    Your understanding is incorrect. Only Quebecers (les Quebecois) have voted in the two referenda held on independence/sovereignty-association. Both times they voted against it, although by a slim margin the second time. Support for independence in Quebec is low these days. It doesn’t seem to be a big priority for people.

    As for the link to Britain, although it is, for all intents and purposes, independent, Canada is a member of the British Commonwealth. In fact, it has played a leading role in the Commonwealth – sometimes to the extent that the British have complained that we appear to be taking over ‘their Commonwealth’. I read that complaint in the British press in the 1990s, I believe.

    This is one argument made against taking the final step to breaking the link with Britain. Those who want to keep the link say we have a lot of influence in the Commonwealth and would lose it if we went our own way. I don’t know about that. India is still a member even though it is fully independent, I believe. I think it is a republic, but I could be wrong.

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