Canada Can Be On Guard For “US”:
Millions of Americans, both the working and the unemployed, watched the opening of the 112th congress on January 5th as Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, handed the customized, oversized gavel to the new speaker, John Boehner (pronounced "Bayner"). In passing the torch, so to speak, not only is history being made, but the American people are watching. They can see that their needs, urgent expectations and anger were heard last November.
It occurred to me yet again, with renewed sadness, that Canadians, adults and youth alike, possess no similar interest or knowledge about their own government. A recent poll showed, in fact, that adolescents are not only unaware of the fact that the Canadian parliamentary system is vastly different from the American congressional system, but they are also stymied when asked which political party is in power and who the prime minister is. In fact, 40% of those asked, were confused by the term “prime minister”. They assumed that Canada’s head of state was a “president” – their favourite? President Obama. When asked to name a branch of government, the majority, over 80%, alluded to the “Senate”. Correct, of course, but when asked to differentiate between the Canadian and the American Senates, the future voters were baffled.
The point, here, is not to criticize – it is to induce interest in acting in some way to ramp up civics courses, as well as to encourage a well-camouflaged and “unsupervised” Canadian government to spend a tiny portion of what it wastes to promote itself. Promote does not just mean propagandize, it means inform. In order for the most passively resigned population in Canadian history to take an interest in their collective fate and to have a direct say in what Ottawa is doing, there needs to be a mutual reaching out, a mutual dialogue. Furthermore, if we are to entice the best and the brightest into public service in the future – a potentially and probably dire one for what is currently the largest demographic group, the middle aged – we all need to evoke our governors to speak to and reveal their work to the public. We also need to evoke an interest and a sense of viability in a seemingly distant, torpid and, at times, bloated and estranged seat of government.
It is insufficient to be able to lip-sync the national anthem. In fact, it is dangerous. However, on a high note, through no effort of our own, Canada is still perceived as a neutral global player. Though the promulgated reputation of Canada as a multicultural mecca has grown tired (just speak to immigrant families), there is an international role we can play. As the founder of the Global “US” project that now has community, one-on-one, and national projects ongoing around the world, I am one of many who have high hopes that Canada will play an integrating and ameliorating global role. Canada can play this role. As a currently disparately regional country, this is something the vast majority of us can agree on. By so doing, we would – Canadians of all ages – acquire an immediate sense of unprecedented pride in our blessed country and, via osmosis perhaps, learn more about who we are as a people.
If we do really believe that we are separate from and “better than” the otherwise revered nation to the south, let’s put our sentiments, time and effort where our easy beliefs and selective defenses are. Let’s begin a movement, with the support of the Canadian government, to reach and teach each other about our governance. At the same time, let’s form a sense of (unprecedented) shared pride in what we, as a nation can do for US – by Canada and Canadians - for the world.
For more information on the Global “US” Initiative, contact its founder Dr. Lauren Kennedy-Smith, at