“There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada. Those qualities are what make us the first postnational state.”
-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (2015)
- Choose an event from Canada’s past or present (social, political, environmental, or economic) and describe/illustrate (show cause and effect) how this event influenced / influences all four of the quadrants. Provide images / primary source evidence where possible.
- Does your event represent a step towards creating and maintaining a coherent Canadian identity, or does it move Canada more clearly in the direction of Trudeau’s discussion of a “postnational” state?
- In your opinion, is there any value in trying to define a specific Canadian identity, or should we abandon this idea towards a more open and global idea of nationhood? Why?
One of the key events that has shaped Canadian identity and affects all aspects of our lives is the right to universal health care. Tommy Douglas (NDP) first proposed it as premier of Saskatchewan in 1947, urging for free basic hospital care. All of the provinces and territories soon followed, helping Canadians across the country live without fear of health issues regardless of their wealth. The medical program soon expanded and improved to include more treatments covered, leading to the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act in 1957 and the Medical Care Act in 1966. This is a political event, but its far-reaching consequences are definitely affecting all four quadrants. This decision definitely affected the social aspect of Canadians, helping equalize people to make sure they have the same access to important social services. It is also an important step forward in making Canada the accepting, unbiased nation that it is now. It is a statement made by the government that symbolizes their determination to support all their citizens and provide them with the same fundamental rights regardless of poverty or social standing. On the economical side, the government’s decision to “reimburse, or cost share,
one-half of provincial and territorial costs for specified hospital and diagnostic services” will have an impact on the other expenses of the country. The free medical services are, after all, not cheap, knowing that the average household pays $11,320 per year in tax money. The money spent on providing care may be withdrawn from important funds, like ones set up for the environment. The Conservative party is not known for renewable energy and the like, so the health care funds may reduce environmental funding not supported by the government. Also, the fact that people won’t have to pay for healthcare will mean that a lot more people will use the system, increasing strain on the system and usage of medical supplies, creating more waste that may harm the environment.
This act has moved Canada closer as a nation by emphasizing to the world the values that Canadians are proud of. Even today, free universal health care is not the case in many countries in the world, and the fact that Canada is part of this group says something about our stand regarding human rights. From the women’s rights movements in 1929 to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, Canada has shown itself to be a nation that embraces change to accept all races, genders or social classes. Canada’s decision to spend valuable funds on the universal health care system to provide access to a healthy life for everyone states its priorities to the world. At that time, not many countries would use big sums of money to help the poor, but we did, and that action at the time made millions of Canadians proud. It is actions like this, ones which distinguish Canada from the rest, that shapes Canadian identity, and I believe that everyone, whether then or now, would see us Canadians as open and tolerant people.
I firmly believe that we, as Canadians, should have a collective identity that overarches on the sea of different values and beliefs. It is only through this sense of being “Canadian” that we could be united as a nation and a country. Canadians in this country may have distinct values and beliefs, but just like how Americans are united by the idea of “freedom and ideas”, we should be people drawn together by something as well. This something, I think, is the strive for equality. As a nation, the Canadian identity is gender equality (LGBTQ + as well), immigration and refugee help, First Nations support, and multiculturalism. Regardless of whether the government is doing well to actualize those things, they are the things that Canadians care about and believe in. This is what makes Canada the nations that it is, huge ideas that support and protect the multitude of small, individual ideas, knowing that our differences can’t break us, but only unite us.