On our 100th birthday, Michael Valpy writes that "we fell in love with ourselves." But, on our 150th birthday, our mood has changed:
A recent exploration by polling firm EKOS Research reports that the importance of many long-time salient symbols of our sense of nationhood is dramatically eroding.Canadians report that the significance to their national identity of the beaver, the maple leaf, the flag, “O Canada,” hockey — yes, hockey — the Grey Cup, Parliament Hill, cultural diversity, tolerance, official bilingualism, Canada Day, Remembrance Day and the RCMP have all declined.For the first time since EKOS began asking the question in the 1990s, the number of Canadians who think the country is admitting too many immigrants who are not white has passed the 40 per cent mark — meaning we’re not only souring on so many traditional national symbols we appear to be becoming more racist.
The racism has always been there. But these days, it's more blatant. Nevertheless, we have come to terms with our French heritage. Frank Graves believes that, "what’s been established is a new healthy détente where Quebecers are able to pursue their own thing and there’s a nice civic nationalism where we agree on things.”
Still, there has been a souring of the public mood, which Graves attributes to four phenomena:
- Increased pluralism.
- Confusion left behind by the previous government’s effort to reorder some of our symbols — the emphasis on military history, for example; the de-emphasis on the Charter.
- A pessimistic sense among ordinary Canadians that progress is ending, inequality is rising and waving the flag won’t help.
- Dark clouds over mainly Conservative voters who constitute 25 to 30 per cent of the electorate and are much more economically fearful, allergic to immigration and globalization, mistrustful of elites and nostalgic for white privilege than the rest of their fellow citizens. Sixty per cent tell EKOS they would have voted for Donald Trump as U.S. president compared to three per cent of Liberal supporters. We’re increasingly two Canadas (or three or four) with a vanishing middle ground.
We are living in the wake of neo-liberalism -- which has left a sour taste wherever it has been adopted. It's time to jettison failed ideas.