Canada's 3 Threats: Quebec's Place, Free Trade, Globalization

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Three major threats are seen as confronting Canada's future: 1) the unresolved debate over Quebec's place in Confederation; 2) the free trade agreement with the United States, said to have resulted in eroded sovereignty and lost jobs; and, 3) globalization of world commerce, seen as dissolving national borders under the banner of big business and trade. Speech to the Toronto Canadian Club's Centennial Series, December 2, 1996.

It is our good fortune as Canadians to occupy the most beautiful land on earth.

It is our good sense which has made this country one of the most free and open democracies in the world.

I have had the opportunity, given only to a few, to know our great and beautiful country from coast to coast to coast.

A salmon barbecue with the Haida people at Hotspring Island in the Queen Charlottes; sailing off the Gulf Islands; the glorious celebration that was the Winter Olympics, in Calgary; canoeing down the Burnside to Bathurst Inlet on the Arctic Ocean; a sunset at Lake of the Woods or at Go Home Bay on Georgian Bay; cross-country skiing in the Gatineau; cheering for the Maple Leafs at the Gardens or the Montreal Canadiens at the old Forum; hearing Mass at Notre Dame Church on Place d'Armes, Montreal; visiting the ateliers darts in Baie Ste Paul in the Charlevoix; walking the fishing ports of Atlantic Canada; eating lobster on the shores of Passamaquoddy Bay; sharing a bean supper at harvest time in southern Saskatchewan. It was there I remembered these short lines

God comes down in the rain,

And the crop grows tall

This is the country faith,

And the best of all.

Geography and history. Two determining factors of our nationhood. One physical, immutable. One human, generational -- England, France, the American Revolution, the arrival of people from everywhere. And all were made welcome. But geography and climate still hold sway: limitless, vast, rough, cruel, relentless. The human condition exposed to the ruthlessness of nature. But the benign seasons as well, the languid summer and the glorious autumn. The Group of Seven caught this on canvass in breathtaking fashion.

And with this vastness, the gift of solitude -- being alone, or with family at the cottage or summer camp. The long evenings over the barbecue. The quiet evening paddle. Watching the sun go down. Watching the moon come up. No where else in the world can one really be as alone or at one with nature.

That side of Canada we cannot take for granted. We continue to pollute our great outdoors. We debate the encroachment of mining and forestry on our vast, untouched northern paradise.

Our identity as Canadians is facing three simultaneous challenges:

(a) The prolongation of the debate over Quebec's place in Confederation.

(b) The continuing erosion of sovereignty and Canadian ownership and jobs under the so-called free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S.

(c) The fad called "globalism" that dissolves borders under the banner of big business and trade.

Let me deal with each.

We are proud to live in a country that is bilingual and multicultural where our diversity presents a constant and ever-present challenge.

Can we English-speaking Canadians not understand Quebec sufficiently well to have our fellow citizens comfortable within our Confederation? Yet can Quebecois not recognize the real pluses of being and remaining Canadian?

We must continue to pursue a dialogue and reach a new consensus, responding to the traditional and historic claims of Quebec, bearing in mind other legitimate claims, including those of our aboriginal peoples. A dialogue -- not a legalistic confrontation. The courts will not solve this issue.

We must work to heal the wounds which this endless debate and the referendum have opened up, and rekindle that great spirit which brought us together as a country almost 130 years ago. …