The Fuzziness of Canadian Nationalism

Do Americans know  their history better than Canadians do theirs?  David Koyzis, a politics professor at Ontario’s Redeemer University College, thinks so.  Part of the reason, Koyzis argues, is the myth of American exceptionalism and the cult of the American founding generation.  Here is a taste of his piece at Comment:

All of which is to say that, if we are not exactly a people without a history, the history we do have does not generally excite or inspire us. Americans endlessly re-enact Civil War battles, turning that country’s most trying hour into something approaching a national hobby—complete with costumes and toy muskets—engendering more camaraderie than division. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of . . . well, you do the math. Although the Battle of Stoney Creek is regularly restaged not far from where I live, one gets the distinct impression that the sponsors are attempting to repackage a complex two-and-a-half-year conflict that no one really won into an occasion for celebrating a nationhood of which both sides were dimly, if at all, aware at the time.

Yet this is what it means to be Canadian: We are compelled to settle for the residue of more than one national identity patiently filtered through a dense thicket of parliamentary statutes, orders-in-council, legal precedents, and committee minutes—all under the benevolent eye of something called the Crown to which we owe (some) loyalty. Will this be sufficient to carry us through the second half of our second century, which we will enter in five years? Only, I suggest, if we have the presence of mind to recognize the singular gift we possess in our exceptionally durable political institutions. In a world where paper constitutions function more as periodical literature, in the words of one observer, than as fundamental law, we in Canada have every reason to be thankful for a system that has worked so well for so long. It may not be an especially flashy or stirring basis for nationhood, but we could do considerably worse.