Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Unfinished Canadian: The People We Are

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Unfinished Canadian: The People We Are

Article excerpt

Andrew Cohen, The Unfinished Canadian: The People We Are (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2007), 270pp. Cased. $29.99. ISBN 978-0-7710-2181-7.

Andrew Cohen, a professor of journalism and international affairs at Ottawa's Carleton University and a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, has provided yet another investigation into Canada's political culture. This short book, with no footnotes and a truncated bibliography (though a good index), reflects Cohen's journalistic side. Cohen asks 'What is a Canadian?' 'Who are we?' He seeks answers in Canada's past, and in its politics, practices, leaders and institutions. Cohen calls his approach 'broad brush rather than short strokes' (p. 5). His generalisations on national character evidently apply to all Canadians, as he blurs most distinctions between Canada's diverse regions and its French and English 'solitudes'. (For a useful corrective on regional political cultures, see Nelson Wiseman, In Search of Canadian Political Culture (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007)). Cohen employs attributes and impulses associated with the British, French, US and Canadian national characters to determine how his country can become more united and self-assured.

Cohen finds that Canadians exemplify self-doubt, stability, predictability, moderation, continuity, vagueness, compromise and rejection of ideology. He deplores these characteristics' diffidence, which rules out a consensus on what it means to be a Canadian. He also laments Canadians' ignorance of their own history. He proposes that Canadians learn their history without specifying which disputed interpretation he endorses.

Cohen's basic argument recalls his columns and earlier books. …

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