A nation unaware

Canadians have been clucking a lot lately about Donald Trump and the divided nation that is the United States. How did this happen, we worry? Isn’t it awful, we say? Will many Americans move here, we wonder? Meanwhile, I believe we have our own wide divides.

Some of those divides are caused by distance and small populations. A recent article about the seven provinces and territories that have signed health care deals with the federal government noted that the seven contain a grand total of 10 percent of Canada’s population. In my entire lifetime, I’ve only made a handful of visits to some among those seven jurisdictions. Stops in Saskatchewan, Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador were forty years ago. Trips to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are more recent, but I have no family and few friends in any of the seven so there is no regular contact.

Quebec I have visited more often, but I might as well have been arriving from New Orleans when I go to Montreal or Quebec City. I speak some French, and certainly know the political history, but as for much of that society I am pretty ignorant. When the names were revealed last fall of the six high-profile journalists whose phones had been monitored by police, I realized that I had never even heard of any of them before, let alone followed their work.

Such disconnectedness may well be what marks us most as Canadians. I can tell you about the Twentieth Amendment of the U.S. constitution, how many years it took to build Salisbury Cathedral and the best time to visit the Duomo in Florence. But I don’t read books written by the Giller winners. I’ve only been on one native Canadian reserve. I don’t even know the names of all the current premiers. More’s the pity for me. And for us.


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