March 24th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Media ensure a comfy rise for Bill Shorten

CANBERRA OBSERVED Can Liberals' broad church survive schism?

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Middle-East time bomb: youth unemployment

ENVIRONMENT Europe's freeze further proof of global warming!

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cashless debit card records positive results

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Liberals' Tasmanian victory: the implications

OPINION The height of absurdity: education as business

ECONOMICS AND CHINA Eyes averted from the dragon in the marketplace

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM The state attacking the Church: lessons from history

FAMILY POLITICS A Trojan horse for monitoring children

NORTH AMERICA The cultural and political mosaic that is Canada

CINEMA Mary Magdalene on film: a new interpretation

MUSIC Audio-visual: or, how to watch your music

CINEMA The Adventures of Tintin: A light amid the bleakness

BOOK REVIEW Taking arms against the gender fluid fad

BOOK REVIEW Narrative history from a great writer



INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Sexual exploitation at Oxfam symptom of culture of death

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The cultural and political mosaic that is Canada

by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, March 24, 2018

Canada is often compared with Australia, but the differences are more pronounced than the similarities. Certainly, we have a British heritage, but Canada was settled by Europeans long before Australia.

Leif Ericson settled Vinland, now identified as Newfoundland, around 1000 AD. The Vikings could not defeat the Skraelings, as the Vikings called the indigenous people, and were forced to retreat. Then, just over 150 years ago, the Dominion of Canada was formed, reluctantly.

How did the Canadians, a resolute and rather dour people who hacked a nation from the wilderness, become the most politically correct people on earth? It must in part be due to the fact that the Canadians don’t have a strong sense of who they are. Also, the Canadians’ record of dealing with their indigenous peoples, the First Nations, the Inuit and the Metis, is more troubled than Australia, although Canada has tried valiantly to make amends recently.

 John Cabot, on commission from the English King Henry VII, explored Newfoundland in 1497. Basque and Portuguese fishermen exploited the cod fisheries, which were said to be so rich that a basket thrown into the ocean would return full of fish. John Cartier, the French explorer, claimed Quebec for the King of France in 1534. Thus began the struggle between the French and the English for supremacy in Canada. The French occupied Lower Canada – Quebec – and the British Upper Canada – Ontario. This struggle has yet to be resolved.

Canada is a great strategic prize. It is the second largest country by area on Earth. It dominates the Arctic in a manner matched only by Russia. The Great Lakes are demilitarised by treaty with the United States. The Great Lakes dominate the centre of the continent of North America. Canada stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and the St Lawrence River links the Great Lakes to the Atlantic.

The fate of France in North America was settled on the Plains of Abraham in 1759. This pivotal battle in the Seven Years War – known as the French and Indian War in America – between England and France changed world history. English General James Wolfe defeated the French under Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Both commanders died from wounds received on the battlefield. France lost control of New France and never recovered its predominance in North America.

The end of French political control did not mean the end of Francophone influence in Canada. For many years, Quebec remained the most economically dominant province in Canada, and Montreal was the commercial capital of Canada. Quebec-based Bombardier is one of the world’s top suppliers of trains and aerospace systems. Bombardier manufactures and maintains most of Victoria’s rail fleet.

By the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the United States had the largest and most advanced army on Earth. It was speculated – not without cause – that the U.S. might turn its attentions towards Canada. Under pressure from the British, four provinces of Canada – Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia – formed a Confederation, to be known as the Dominion of Canada. Canada now has 10 provinces and three territories.

The provinces are more independent than are Australia’s states, even though their legal status is technically inferior. The Confederation was a reluctant union. No one really felt very Canadian. Loyalty to one’s province predominated.

Canada has always had a problem deciding what it is. The Bloc Quebecois, which was formed in 1991, aimed to make Quebec independent of Canada. It is now generally admitted in Quebec that the Bloc has been a disaster for Quebec. In 2015, the Bloc had its poorest showing ever and won only 10 seats, insufficient for it for it to attain party status in the Dominion Parliament.

The wonderful Art Gallery of Ontario, one of the best art galleries in North America, has an outstanding collection of the Group of Seven, the Canadian school of painters similar to Australia’s Heidelberg School, which flourished around the turn of the 20th century. According to our guide, parallels are often drawn between Canada and the Group of Seven – both have trouble articulating what they stand for, but they cooperate none the less.

Canada seems to have no urge towards republicanism, despite its Maple Leaf flag. Its constitution, which was an act of the British Parliament, was patriated in 1982, making Canada technically independent of the United Kingdom, although it had been independent in all but name since the Statute of Westminster was signed in 1931.

Canada is a mosaic of immigrants who don’t quite get along. Canada invented multiculturalism. Canada accepted cottiers from Ireland in the Hungry Forties. Irish landlords who wanted to  “shovel out” their tenants often chose British North America over the United States and were commended for doing so (see Terry Coleman, Passage to America, London 1972). The Scottish victims of the Highland Clearances also arrived in great numbers. Gaelic is still spoken in some parts of Canada.

Canada takes great pride in its military history. The Battle of Vimy Ridge is similar in importance to Gallipoli for us. It was fought on the Western Front in April 1917 by a combined Canadian force and resulted in a convincing Canadian victory over the dug-in Germans.

The Royal 22nd Regiment was raised during World War I in Quebec. The “Van Doos” is a Francophone regiment, with its headquarters in the Citadel adjoining the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City. This light infantry formation has numerous battle honours and has won several Victoria Crosses. It is the largest regiment in the Canadian Army.

Showy Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently toured India – dressed as an Indian. Just to demonstrate again that Canada’s problem is that it can’t decide what it is.

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TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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