Canada: A Fair Country

I’ll be at Hart House, University of Toronto this Wednesday night, with any luck, along with my son.afaircountry

We’ll be listening to an essayist and philosopher called John Ralston Saul explain his newest book called A Fair Country: Telling Truth about Canada.

The latest from The Man with Big Ideas:

We [Canadians] are a Métis civilization.

What were are today has been inspired as much by four centuries of life with the indigenous civilizations as by four centuries of immigration. Perhaps more. Today we are the outcome of that experience. As have Métis people, Canadians in general have been heavily influenced and shaped by the First Nations. We still are. The influencing, this shaping is deep within us.

When I dig around in the roots of how we imagine ourselves, how we govern, how we live together in communities – how we treat one another when we are not being stupid – what I find is deeply Aboriginal. Whatever our family tree may look like, our intuitions and common sense as a civilization are more Aboriginal than European or African or Asian, even though we have created elaborate theatrical screens of language, referrence and mythology to misrepresent ourselves to ourselves.

I believe this is true in a very real sense.

One thing that I am constantly amazed at is the truly unique Canadian rock-solid belief in egalitarianism.

egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal) is a political doctrine that holds that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social, and civil rights. Generally it applies to being held equal under the law and society at large. Wikipedia

I think Saul is on to something here. Something more than just simply stirring the pot or posing.

Canadians elected a bantam-sized former Baptist minister as the Greatest Canadian of all time in 2004. As a boy, Tommy Douglas needed surgery on his leg but his family could not afford it.

It was only the charity of a surgeon that prevented him from having it amputated. Douglas never forgot and as Saskatchewan premier was responsible for the Canada’s first free hospital care.

  • It doesn’t seem fair for people to have to chose between their health and their homes.

Note that the book’s cover art speaks to an Ojibway/Anishinaabe creation myth called Turtle Island. The Parliament of Canada, Centre Block, Ottawa, Ontario is borne on the turtle’s back.

One common creation story:

Turtle Island is a traditional name for North America. The name comes from a common indigenous creation story: The first human, a woman, tumbled from the sky to the earth below. At the time the earth was completely water. Birds caught the woman in their wings, but they needed land for her to live on. Several animals tried to dive to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve some dirt with which to build land. Finally, the muskrat succeeded. Placing the dirt on the turtle’s back, the woman blew and sent the dirt expanding across the ocean, making land for her to live on and a place for her to give birth to the first humans.

Originally posted on on December 1, 2008.


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