Count your blessings, Canada

Posted on June 21, 2016 in Governance Debates – Opinion/Commentary – Our nation has major issues but if Canadians look around at the horrors facing our closest allies, we have a lot for which to be grateful
June 19, 2016.   By ROBIN V. SEARS

My beloved Scottish Presbyterian grandmother’s most impenetrable diktats, hurled whenever one of the many grandchildren swirling about her knees on summer vacations, whined about getting a smaller drink or less time in the kayak was, “Just stop that! You should count your blessings, young man!”

The concept of blessings and how one would go about counting them was a mystery for many summers, but we knew it meant, “Stop whingeing, or else.”

This summer of horror in the U.S., the U.K. and France is perhaps one where Canadians should be counting our blessings. We not have — barring very occasional tragic exceptions — to live with the nightmare of urban terror in our cities. We do not have to endure vulgar opportunistic politicians, attempting to feed their ambition on the grief of families. We have no one of consequence politically who would dare champion looser access to deadly weapons, as a remedy to gun violence.

We have built the most socially tolerant high-immigration nation on the planet, and continue to surprise ourselves with our success at the integration of greater and greater numbers of citizens from cultures as different from Canada’s host culture as it is possible to be. And we have no credible political voice that would gainsay that achievement, its value and its future.

What is astonishing is that this is nowhere else true. Virtually every advanced democracy has at least one increasingly virulent anti-immigrant party — some in, and others increasingly close to, power.

This month we have seen a collision between the Liberal-led House of Commons and the “no-one-in-charge” Senate over a highly emotional subject: assisted suicide. It is intense, and it shows every prospect of getting more so. But the debate is so far civil, the effort to find order in the chaos of Justin Trudeau’s “non-partisan” Senate is being led by a distinguished former civil servant and treaty negotiator, Peter Harder, with cool and aplomb. There is not a spittle-flecked Ted Cruz, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen or failed racist casino huckster anywhere to be seen.

The government has clearly bungled its management of the file, and will suffer some knocks before it is put to bed. But Canadians know that it will be, and with a minimum of phoney partisan fireworks.

As Jeffrey Simpson put it in an eloquent valedictory interview with Michael Enright, just before he hangs up his pen as one of Canada’s longest-serving pundits, when asked what is the biggest thing he has seen over his almost 40 years as a scribe, “The Constitution battle,” he replied. He’s right, of course. If you remember 1970 and the FLQ, or the bitter referendums, or the Charter battle. But if you are a millennial Canadian or younger, you’re likely to say, “Huh?”

Battles that continue to rip nations as different as Spain and Britain, France and Belgium, over regional autonomy, we argued our way out of — over too many wasted years, admittedly. But does anyone really believe those sterile battles between Alberta and Ottawa, Quebec and everyone else, will return anytime soon? It seems highly unlikely.

This is not an invitation to sanctimony. Compared to most of humanity most Canadians did win the birth lottery. We are blessed, by natural inheritance, geography, and good luck. And as Obama so eloquently put it, though “the arc of the moral universe does bend toward justice,” it requires our determination and struggle to make it so.

We have only begun to move down the path to true reconciliation with our indigenous peoples, we have too many pockets of generational poverty still, and we are far from living up to the dream of a green tech Canada. Our governments waste too much money and our corporations do too little real innovation. We are still far too spoiled by our access to the United States to make the kind of transformational commitment to Asia that the prosperity of the next generation of Canadians will require.

And our record as a generous international partner needs far more rebuilding from decades of neglect than this government has yet shown the courage of even British Conservatives to commit to.


Compared to where we were a generation ago, compared to where we were even a year ago, and more importantly compared to where our closest neighbours, nations and partners are today, as we approach our 149th national day celebration, my grandmother’s declaration rings in my ears, “Count your blessings, Canada, count your blessings” — and then get to work on bending that arc.

Robin V. Sears, a principal at Earnscliffe and a Broadbent Institute leadership fellow, was an NDP strategist for 20 years.

< >

Tags: , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016 at 10:34 am and is filed under Governance Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply