WHAT IS CANADA FOR? Canadians Challenged to Live Up to This Country's Great Potential

By LaBerge, Roy | CCPA Monitor, September 2007 | Go to article overview

WHAT IS CANADA FOR? Canadians Challenged to Live Up to This Country's Great Potential


LaBerge, Roy, CCPA Monitor


WHAT IS CANADA FOR? Canadians challenged to live up to this country's great potential INTENT FOR A NATION: A relentlessly optimistic manifesto for Canada's role in the world, by Michael Byers, Douglas & McIntyre, 248 pages (hardcover) $32.95.

"As Canadians we should dare to dream great dreams. As Canadians we should dare to make them happen."

Michael Byers issues this challenge to us in Intent for a Nation, and he believes that we can meet it. He rejects the pessimism of Lament for a Nation, the Defeat of Canadian Nationalism, the influential 1965 book by Canadian political philosopher George Grant.

Byers came back to Canada in 2004, after having lived outside this country for 12 years: seven in Britain teaching and studying international law at Cambridge and Oxford Universities, and five in Durham, North Carolina, as a professor of law and director of Canadian Studies at Duke University.

"Returning to Canada from an extended absence can improve your understanding of where you came from, since you see how things are done differently elsewhere," he observes. "A long absence can also help you see changes that, because they have occurred slowly, are less visible to those who have stayed at home."

He adds: "I see this place as it is now, in all its messy reality, rather than how in my absence I dreamed it to be. But my time outside Canada has made me far more optimistic about this country's future than the majority of Canadian academics, journalists and policy-makers, many of whom believe Canada is destined to be a minor actor on the world stage."

For Byers, the most shocking change was "the dramatic increase in the number of homeless people on the streets of our cities." However, he also found encouraging changes, among them "the incredibly socially conscious and internationally oriented character of the current generation of Canadian youth."

As a result of his new perspective, Byers is appealing to Canada to do better than it now is doing in a wide range of concerns, including ownership and control of our economy, climate change, Arctic sovereignty, peacekeeping, military integration with the U.S., and global citizenship.

He leaves no doubt about how much he himself appreciates Canada. On his way to a conference in San Diego, he asked a U.S. immigration officer at Vancouver airport to take away his coveted "green card" which authorized him to live and work in the U.S. "Are you sure you want to do this," she whispered, as she showed him to a secondary screening room, where he was handed a form that it took him 45 minutes to complete. …

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WHAT IS CANADA FOR? Canadians Challenged to Live Up to This Country's Great Potential
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