Today we celebrate Canada’s birthday. Happy 147th Canada! I could discuss the wisdom that comes with age, the importance of celebrating milestones or indeed, Canada’s history, but one of the things I’ve always liked about Canada is our appreciation of a good discussion, we like to think.
Although Canada became a country in 1867, we did not gain our full political freedom from the British cabinet until 1982 when the Constitution Act patriated the Canadian constitution. Some might have gone to war. In fact, our American neighbours made no bones about their bid for independence. Freedom was worth bearing arms for and they certainly were not going to wait around for a distant British Empire to give them permission to lead their own lives.
Here in Canada we used pens and patience to achieve our freedom. It’s not that we’re not up for a fight. We have certainly been in enough conflicts to put that idea to bed. It’s more that as a nation we’d rather have a debate. Quebec has been contemplating the possibility of separation for years now. Periodically a referendum comes forward to determine if enough Quebecers are ready for separation, a vote is taken and if the outcome is no (and it has been so far) we go back to business as usual. Think about it, a peaceful referendum. No guns, bombs or violence needed.
To tell the truth, we tried violence for about seven years in the 1960’s as a way of resolving separation issues. Eight deaths and many bombings later we determined that political action would be more appropriate and the Parti Québécois (a separatist party) was cemented into our political landscape and has been a political player in Quebec ever since.
We are not a homogenous group. We are not always friendly or even always polite, but we do like to think. I am proud to say that some of the world’s literary giants are Canadian, folks like Margaret Atwood, Anne Hébert, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Robertson Davies and Carol Shields to name a few. Did you notice that many of our great writers are also women? It’s something else that makes me proud to be Canadian, not to mention give me some hope.
We are not renown for our cooking. Poutine, bacon, beaver tails, Nanaimo bars and maple syrup are chief among our offerings and while popular they are noted far more often for being bad for our health than their culinary delight.
We are known for our natural resources, oil and logging are two of our biggest industries and that may explain why you think of lumberjacks when you think of Canada. However, despite our history and the importance of the primary sector in Canada, our biggest industrial sector is service. In short, we use our brains because we like to think.
This would not be complete as a post on a communications blog without a nod to some of the pioneering Canadians whose thinking helped to shape communications for all of us. People like Harold Innis who saw the influence oral and written communications had on culture and warned us of the perils of embracing media that only focussed on the present. He feared the communications monopolies that were a reflection of the increasingly narrow ownership of newspapers, radio and television. I have to wonder what he would make of the internet, Google and the explosive popularity of social media like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Then we have that great Canadian communications thinker, Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan allowed us to to step back from our means of communicating long enough to understand it’s influence over what were communicating. If the medium is the message, then would we write longer if we weren’t writing blog posts? Would we write differently if we were writing for print? Do we tell stories differently for YouTube? He also predicted the invention of the internet a full thirty years before it came into being.
The next medium, whatever it is—it may be the extension of consciousness—will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind. (1962)
Yes, we like to think. So on this Canada Day I wish all Canadians around the world happy birthday and hope that all of our friends join us in celebrating our big day. Indulge in something good but bad for you, take a walk in nature and of course, give yourself some time to think.
What comes to mind when you think of Canada and Canadians?