“There is no master narrative for Canadian history: there are too many stories to package into a tidy, tightly scripted identity,” wrote Charlotte Gray in her new book The Promise of Canada: 150 Years — People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country, published in the run-up to Canada’s 150-year anniversary. For most Canadians, the birth of Canada has been a success story. It is a diverse country made up of people from different cultures and religions; made up of people who somehow make it work.
The British North America Act (BNA Act), signed in 1867, allowed Canada to become a nation in its own right. The Dominion of Canada, as it was known at that time, was made up of only four provinces including Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Today, Canada is comprised of ten provinces and three territories, the last of which was Nunavut which joined in 1999 after having separated from the Northwest Territories. It would take roughly four and a half years (without sleeping, eating or resting), if you were minded to walk around the country. Canada may be the second largest country in the world, yet only 0.5% of the world’s population reside in Canada with the population standing at roughly 36 million. It is an impressive fact, therefore, that out of the 7 million boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese dinners sold weekly around the world, Canadians purchase 1.7 million of them.
There have been numerous references scattered throughout Canadian history likening the young country to a child growing up. Indeed it was a full 115 years after the BNA Act that complete national sovereignty was granted in the passing of the Canada Act in 1982. Then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau expressed hope that, “Canada will match its new legal maturity with that degree of political maturity which will allow us all to make a total commitment to the Canadian ideal.”
Trudeau continued in a vein that resonates well with some today in our current fractious political environment: “It must … be recognised that no Constitution, no Charter of Rights and Freedoms, no sharing of powers can be a substitute for the willingness to share the risks and grandeur of the Canadian adventure. Without that collective act of the will, our Constitution would be a dead letter, and our country would wither away…. For what we are celebrating today is not so much the completion of our task, but the renewal of our hope — not so much an ending, but a fresh beginning. Let us celebrate the renewal and patriation of our Constitution; but let us put our faith, first and foremost, in the people of Canada who will breathe life into it.”
To summarise, Canada has continually provided a functioning democracy and a prosperous economy despite formidable challenges including a huge, sparsely-populated space, awful weather and two national languages. And with Canada being named as the second best country in the world to live in for the second year running according to a study conducted by U.S. News in partnership with Y&R’s BAV and Wharton, Canadians must be doing something right. Maybe it’s down to all that Kraft Dinner.