Canada’s diversity is a distinct aspect of its culture, which distinguishes it from other countries around the world. Canadian society is made up of an infusion of indigenous and immigrant cultures, which have both been blended to create a national hegemonic identity of what it means to be Canadian (Lemieux 18-23). Canada’s diversity is underpinned by a high level of tolerance in society (Lemieux 59). For example, the Canadian government has often emphasized the importance of embracing immigrants, contrary to some Western countries, which are propagating an anti-immigrant stance (Lemieux 59). The country’s multicultural media and cuisine are also a testament to its diversity (Challen 26).
Reports show that there are many similarities between Canadian and American multicultural societies because both are influenced by indigenous and immigrant views on human values (Lemieux 18-23). These influences are evident in all aspects of life, including food, which is a blend of local and international flavors (Challen 26). The uniqueness of Canadian society is also represented in its sports events, which are celebrated around the world. For example, arguably more than any other country in the world, Canada celebrates ice hockey as one of the most popular games in the country and around the world (Challen 28). These games have a global following. Coupled with multiculturalism, sports have made Canada one of the proudest societies in North America.
Canada’s political system is based on a parliamentary framework of governance where the legislature exercises most state powers. Governed by strong democratic traditions, this North American nation also uses a constitutional monarchy system, which acts as a legitimate source of authority for its judicial, executive, and legislative functions (Malcolmson et al. 105). In line with this political structure, state functions are presided over by a monarchy, while a prime minister controls the government. The holder of this office wields executive powers through a cabinet committee that is answerable to the appointing authority and the House of Commons.
Canada’s political system is different from other countries because it is a full democracy governed by the principles of egalitarianism and liberalism. Furthermore, unlike other developed nations, such as the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK), Canada’s political environment is not characterized by far left or right politics; instead, it is defined by a moderate political philosophy premised on the need to be peaceful and orderly (Malcolmson et al. 87). This political philosophy comes from the bill of rights, which outlines common principles underpinning human relations. It also provides the basis for the formation of the country’s political system.
Canada practices a regionalism system of governance to safeguard the robustness of its local social and political characteristics. This practice stems from early European settlers who used regionalism to safeguard the unique identities of different people or inhabitants living in known geographical zones (Malcolmson et al. 190). Later, the concept morphed into a model that preserves the unique identities of each province, their economic potential, and lifestyles. From this point onwards, regionalism in Canada has spread with the goal of safeguarding the local characteristics of its provinces. Therefore, provincial administrative blocs have become a distinct feature of decentralization in Canada. Their prominence emerged when the government started assuming a larger role in citizens’ lives. Stemming from this history, provincial administrations have played an important role of shaping Canada’s national identity because apart from being small and powerful administrative units, they represent the national government at a local level (Malcolmson et al. 64-68). Therefore, most administrative activities that should be implemented regionally are now being done provincially.
Regionalism affects Canada’s nationalism because it influences people’s national psyche by encouraging them to protect their authentic identities. For example, regionalism in Quebec has helped to preserve the local cultures and traditions of early French-speaking settlers whose descendants mostly inhabit the province (Malcolmson et al. 61). The provincial government has promoted the values espoused by these people through regionalism because it is a tool of cultural preservation. Therefore, the concept helps to highlight the diversity of Canada’s culture.
Canada’s uniqueness as a progressive nation stems from the values and ethical principles it shares among its citizens. According to Lemieux, Canada’s cultural values are a blend of both American and British values (48). Hofstede’s cultural framework of analysis provides a model for reviewing these values and it shows that Canada has a low ranking on the “individualism vs. collectiveness” scale compared to its peers, such as the US and the UK (Hofstede Insights). Furthermore, according to Hofstede’s cultural framework, Canada also has a low power distance score of 39 meaning that the country’s inhabitants prefer to be included in decision-making, while leaders have to collaborate with citizens in areas of governance and other aspects of life (Hofstede Insights). This value has far-reaching implications for public life in Canada. For example, in a typical Canadian workplace, low power distance means that superiors are often accessible to employees.
According to Hofstede’s model, Canadian citizens also value individualism. This nation has the highest score in this value category compared to all others in Hofstede’s model, including power distance, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation, and indulgence (1). This high score of individualism means that most Canadians believe in taking care of themselves and their nuclear families before all other people. This value encourages citizens to be independent and innovative. Lastly, Canada’s lowest score on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions model is its long-term orientation (Hofstede Insights). Stated differently, the country is largely a normative society that strives to maintain time-honored traditions and is cynical about change. Therefore, the low-value ranking on long-term orientation means that most Canadians have difficulty supporting actions that contravene tested historical knowledge. They also tend to save few resources for future needs and are not attracted to short-term results.
Major Historical Events in Canada
Since its inception as a nation-state, Canada has witnessed major historical events, which have shaped public life and its national identity. In the context of this study, two major events that are highlighted as the most impactful are the Persons Case of 1927 and The Great Reform Convention of 1859. The Persons Case of 1927 contributed to gender equality in this North American nation by legitimizing the inclusion of women in governance systems. In the case, a group of women who termed themselves as the “famous five” questioned the basis for excluding women as “people” from the country’s political system (Historica Canada). Initially, the court ruled that women were not regarded as “persons” and could not partake in political processes. However, a later judgment given in 1929 reversed this decision and granted women the same legal status as their male counterparts (Historica Canada).
This major historical event led to the onset of advocacy for gender equality rights in politics because women could participate in civic processes as their male counterparts did. Because of this development, women started taking part in discussions that shaped mainstream political discourse (Historica Canada). Equal gender participation in Canada’s governance systems now forms a significant part of the country’s national identity because its democratic image cannot be sustained without the full participation of women in political processes. The Persons Case of 1927 was the major historical event that led to this development.
The Great Reform Convention of 1859 was another major historical milestone in Canada that led to significant political and social reforms in the country. It involved a political agreement among major youth groups in Upper and Lower Canada who met in Ontario to forge a political union that would work to promote the wellbeing of all Canadians (Historica Canada). The meeting was precipitated by seemingly unending injustices meted out against the people of Upper Canada through repressive legislative practices designed by authorities from Lower Canada. Furthermore, the divide was fueled by conflicting ideologies regarding the officials from both parts of the country as one faction promoted French-based ideals of governance, while the other supported British ideas.
This truce contributed to the development of Canada’s national identity and helped to establish a close relationship between people who followed different traditions stemming from English and French influences. Today, certain parts of Canada have cemented this close relationship. For example, in the Province of Quebec, people have strong French and English roots, which have permeated throughout different layers of the region’s political structure and, by extension, the national identity. Broadly, The Great Reform Convention of 1859 and the Persons Case of 1927 are the two historical events that have influenced Canada’s policy, culture, and identity.
Threats to Canadian Identity
Unlike in other Western countries, it is difficult to describe one common identity for all Canadians because of their multicultural heritage. While this attribute is beneficial in presenting this nation as a multicultural society, it has led to ethnic balkanization, which is a potential threat to the country’s national identity. For example, in some provinces and urban settings, some ethnic communities have isolated themselves into small groups of people with similar identities – a process that has led to the creation of ethnic ghettos around the country. If this trend continues, it will further lead to the fragmentation of Canada’s population. The problem is more profound among the immigrant population because ethnic balkanization makes it difficult to assimilate them into mainstream Canadian society. This problem creates fragmented units of the Canadian population that may not buy into the idea of a collective national identity. Coupled with separatist movements in some provinces, such as Quebec, this problem could cause disunity within society and potentially the loss of its national identity.
The second threat to Canada’s identity is globalization. It refers to the rapid spread of ideas and the free movement of people from different cultures and backgrounds. The fundamental basis of this trend is the development of a common future that does not belong to one specific culture. In extreme cases, globalization has been linked with the possible extinction of some cultures, especially in many developing parts of the world (Kunnie 16). Notable evidence has been provided in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, where globalization threatens the existence of indigenous cultures (Kunnie 46). The effect of globalization in developed economies is also documented through selected case studies, such as the one about Japan, which has seen a decline in the popularity of its local cultural practices because of rapid industrialization and modernization (Kunnie 91). Canada is currently pursuing a favorable immigration policy that allows thousands of people from different parts of the world to live and work in the country. The trend may threaten the dominant cultural identity or influence the mainstream idea of nationalism in this North American country.
Broadly, these insights show that the balkanization of the Canadian population and globalization may have a significant impact on the country’s national identity. To mitigate their effects, it may be prudent to develop a common sense of identity that captures new socioeconomic influences brought by an influx of people from different parts of the world. For example, it may be prudent to rethink what it means to be Canadian by refraining from using traditional social stratification criteria, such as heritage, the color of skin, or religion to redefine the meaning. Instead, a more unified identity of nationalism needs to be fostered where everyone can feel proud to be Canadian, regardless of his or her heritage, background, or socioeconomic condition.
Canada’s influence in the world cannot be ignored based on the dynamism of the country’s political, economic, and social systems. In fact, according to Lemieux, the country has had a significant impact on the world today (56). One way it has shown its power is through its peacekeeping missions around the world. For example, Canadians have played an important role in boosting the fight against terrorism around the world through technological and human resource support (Delvoie). The Canadian government sent its soldiers to be part of a United Nations (UN) mission in South Korea to protect the nation from its Northern neighbor (Delvoie). It also sent its soldiers to help in peacekeeping activities in the Middle East region, through the deployment of military observers during the Arab-Israel war of 1948 (Delvoie). Canada’s contribution to global peace is proof of its growing global positioning as one of the most progressive countries in the world. Indeed, its peaceful nature is increasingly being emulated by other nations around the world who are trying to create a similarly nonviolent society.
Lastly, Canada is increasingly playing the role of a moderate superpower in the world where its biggest ally, the US, is faltering in providing global leadership through its nationalistic, US-first, policies. Coupled with the influence of other moderate global superpowers, such as Germany and France, Canada is being seen as a neutral world power that is devoid of the political extremes seen in some Western nations, such as the UK and the US. Therefore, it is a country with an alternative leadership model of governance that is designed to create a consensus, as opposed to pursuing antagonistic policies premised on a culture of lecturing other countries on what to do. From this point of engagement, the Canadian nation has shown leadership around the world in tackling several global issues, such as human rights, gender equality, and disaster management activities (Government of Canada). In this regard, it has the potential to have a greater social impact on the global stage by scaling its positive impact on other societies.
Challen, Paul. The Culture and Crafts of Canada. The Rosen Publishing Group, 2015: Pages: 26-28.
Delvoie, Louis. “Canada and Peacekeeping.” The Whig. Web.
Government of Canada. “Canada’s Efforts to Address Global Issues.” International. Web.
Historica Canada. “Significant Events in Canadian History.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. Web.
Hofstede Insights. “Canada.” Hofstede Insights. Web.
Kunnie, Julian. The Cost of Globalization: Dangers to the Earth and Its People. McFarland, 2015: Pages: 16-91.
Lemieux, Diane. Canada – Culture Smart: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture. Kuperard, 2016: Pages: 18-59.
Malcolmson, Patrick, et al. The Canadian Regime: An Introduction to Parliamentary Government in Canada. University of Toronto Press, 2016: Pages: 45-105.