Canadian identity refers to the unique culture, characteristics and condition of being Canadian, as well as the many symbols and expressions that set Canada and Canadians apart from other peoples and cultures of the world.
Primary influences on the Canadian identity trace back to the arrival, beginning in the early seventeenth century, of French settlers in Acadia and the St. Lawrence River Valley and English, Scottish and other settlers in Newfoundland, the British conquest of New France in 1759, and the ensuing dominance of French and British culture in the gradual development of both an imperial and a national identity.
Throughout the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, First Nations played a critical part in the development of European colonies in Canada, from their role in assisting exploration of the continent, the fur trade and inter-European power struggles to the creation of the Métis people. Carrying through the 20th century and to the present day, Canadian aboriginal art and culture continues to exert a marked influence on Canadian identity.
The question of Canadian identity was traditionally dominated by two fundamental themes: first, the often conflicted relations between English Canadians and French Canadians stemming from the French Canadian imperative for cultural and linguistic survival; secondly, the generally close ties between English Canadians and the British Empire, resulting in a gradual political process towards complete independence from the imperial power. With the gradual loosening of political and cultural ties to Britain in the twentieth century, immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean have reshaped the Canadian identity, a process that continues today with the continuing arrival of large numbers of immigrants from non British or French backgrounds, adding the theme of multiculturalism to the debate. Today, Canada has a diverse makeup of nationalities and cultures (see Canadian culture) and constitutional protection for policies that promote multiculturalism rather than a single national myth.
In defining a Canadian identity, some distinctive characteristics that have been emphasized are:
- The bicultural nature of Canada and the important ways in which English–French relations since the 1760s have shaped the Canadian experience.
- Canada's distinctive historical experience in resisting revolution and republicanism compared to the U.S., leading to less individualism and more support for government activism, such as wheat pools and the health care system.
- The relationship to the British parliamentary system and the British legal system, the conservatism associated with the Loyalists and the pre-1960 French Canadians, have given Canada its ongoing collective obsession with "peace, order and good government".
- The social structure of multiple ethnic groups that kept their identities and produced a cultural mosaic rather than a melting pot.
- The influence of geographical factors (vast area, coldness, northness; St. Lawrence spine) together with the proximity of the United States have produced in the collective Canadian psyche what Northrop Frye has called the garrison mind or siege mentality, and what novelist Margaret Atwood has argued is the Canadian preoccupation with survival. For Herschel Hardin, because of the remarkable hold of the siege mentality and the concern with survival, Canada in its essentials is "a public enterprise country." According to Hardin, the "fundamental mode of Canadian life" has always been, "the un-American mechanism of redistribution as opposed to the mystic American mechanism of market rule." Most Canadians, in other words, whether on the right or left in politics, expect their governments to be actively involved in the economic and social life of the nation.
Main articles: History of Canada and Historiography of Canada
Canada's large geographic size, the presence and survival of a significant number of indigenous peoples, the conquest of one European linguistic population by another and relatively open immigration policy have led to an extremely diverse society.
The indigenous peoples of Canada are divided among a large number of different ethnolinguistic groups, including the Inuit in the northern territory of Nunavut, the Algonquian language groups in eastern Canada (Mi'kmaq in the Maritime Provinces, Abenaki of Quebec and Ojibway of the central region), the Iroquois of central Canada, the Cree of northern Ontario, Quebec and the Great Plains, peoples speaking the Athabaskan languages of Canada's northwest, the Salishan language groups of British Columbia and other peoples of the Pacific coast such as the Tsimshian, Haida, Kwakwaka'wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth. Each of the indigenous peoples developed vibrant societies with complex economies, political structures and cultural traditions that were subsequently affected profoundly by interaction with the European populations. The Metis are an indigenous people whose culture and identity was produced by a fusion of First Nations with the French, Irish and Scottish fur trade society of the north and west.
French Settlement and the Struggle for Francophone Identity in Canada
From the founding by Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons of Port Royal in 1605, (the beginnings of French settlement of Acadia) and the founding of Quebec City in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, Canada was ruled from and settled almost exclusively by French colonists. John Ralston Saul, among others, has noted that the east-west shape of modern Canada had its origins in decisions regarding alliances with the indigenous peoples made by early French colonizers or explorers such as Champlain or De La Vérendrye. By allying with the Algonquins, for example, Champlain gained an alliance with the Wyandot or Huron of today's Ontario, and the enmity of the Iroquois of what is now northern New York State.
Although English settlement began in Newfoundland in 1610, and the Hudson's Bay Company was chartered in 1670, it was only with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 that France ceded to Great Britain its claims to mainland Nova Scotia and significant British colonization of what would become mainland Canada would begin. Even then, prior to the American Revolution, Nova Scotia was settled largely by planters from New England who took up lands following the deportation of the French-speaking Acadian population, in 1755 in an event known in French to Acadians as Le Grand Dérangement, one of the critical events in the formation of the Canadian identity. During the period of French hegemony over New France the term Canadien referred to the French-speaking inhabitants of Canada.
The Seven Years' War between Great Britain and France resulted in the conquest of New France by the British in 1759 at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, an event that reverberates profoundly even today in the national consciousness of Quebecers. Although there were deliberate attempts made by the British to assimilate the French speaking population to English language and culture, most notably the 1840 Act of Union that followed the seminal report of Lord Durham, British colonial policy for Canada on the whole was one which acknowledged and permitted the continued existence of French language and culture. Nevertheless, the efforts at assimilation of French Canadians, the fate of the French-speaking Acadians and the revolt of the patriotes in 1837 would not be forgotten by their Québécois descendants. Je me souviens, (English: "I remember"), the motto of Quebec, became the watchword of the Québécois. Determined to maintain their cultural and linguistic distinctiveness in the face of British colonial domination and massive immigration of English speaking people to the pre-Confederation Province of Canada, this survivalist determination is a cornerstone of current Québécois identity and much of the political discourse in Quebec. The English Canadian writer and philosopher John Ralston Saul also considers the Ultramontane movement of Catholicism as playing a pivotal and highly negative role in the development of certain aspects of Québécois identity.
British Settlement in Canada: Revolution, Invasion and Confederation
For its part, the identity of English speaking Canada was profoundly influenced by another pivotal historic event, the American Revolution. Americans who remained loyal to the Crown and who actively supported the British during the Revolution saw their lands and goods confiscated by the new republic at the end of the war. Some 60,000 persons, known in Canada as United Empire Loyalists fled the United States or were evacuated after the war, coming to Nova Scotia and Quebec where they received land and some assistance from the British government in compensation and recognition for having taken up arms in defence of King George III and British interests. This population formed the nucleus for two modern Canadian provinces—Ontario and New Brunswick—and had a profound demographic, political and economic influence on Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. Conservative in politics, distrustful or even hostile towards Americans, republicanism, and especially American republicanism, this group of people marked the British of British North America as a distinctly identifiable cultural entity for many generations, and Canadian commentators continue to assert that the legacy of the Loyalists still plays a vital role in English Canadian identity. According to the author and political commentator Richard Gwyn while "[t]he British connection has long vanished...it takes only a short dig down to the sedimentary layer once occupied by the Loyalists to locate the sources of a great many contemporary Canadian convictions and conventions."
Canada was twice invaded by armed forces from the United States during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. The first invasion occurred in 1775, and succeeded in capturing Montreal and other towns in Quebec before being repelled at Quebec City by a combination of British troops and local militia. During this invasion, the French-speaking Canadiens assisted both the invaders from the United Colonies and the defending British. The War of 1812 also saw the invasion of American forces into what was then Upper and Lower Canada, and important British victories at Queenston Heights, Lundy's Lane and Crysler's Farm. The British were assisted again by local militia, this time not only the Canadiens, but also the descendants of the Loyalists who had arrived barely a generation earlier. The Americans however captured control of Lake Erie, cutting off what is today western Ontario; they killed Tecumseh and dealt the Indian allies a decisive defeat from which they never recovered. The War of 1812 has been called "in many respects a war of independence for Canada".
The years following the War of 1812 were marked by heavy immigration from Great Britain to the Canadas and, to a lesser degree, the Maritime Provinces, adding new British elements (English, Scottish and Protestant Irish) to the pre-existing English-speaking populations. During the same period immigration of Catholic Irish brought large numbers of settlers who had no attachment, and often a great hostility, toward the imperial power. The hostility of other groups to the autocratic colonial administrations that were not based on democratic principles of responsible government, principally the French-speaking population of Lower Canada and newly arrived American settlers with no particular ties to Great Britain, were to manifest themselves in the short-lived but symbolically powerful Rebellions of 1837. The term "Canadian", once describing a francophone population, was adopted by English-speaking residents of the Canadas as well, marking the process of converting 'British' immigrants into 'Canadians.'
The merger of the two Canadas in 1840, with political power divided evenly between the former Lower and Upper Canadas, created a political structure that eventually exacerbated tensions between the French and English-speaking populations and which would prove an enduring feature of Canadian identity. As the population of English-speaking and largely Protestant Canada West grew to surpass that of majority French-speaking Catholic Canada East, the population of Canada West began to feel that its interests were becoming subservient to the francophone population of Canada East. George Brown, founder of the Globe newspaper (forerunner of today's Globe and Mail) and a Father of Confederation wrote that the position of Canada West had become "a base vassalage to French-Canadian Priestcraft."  For its part, the French Canadians distrusted the growing anti-Catholic 'British' population of Canada West and sought a structure that could provide at least some control over its own affairs through a Provincial legislature founded on principles of responsible government.
The union of the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into a federation in 1867 drew on all of the primary aspects of the Canadian identity: loyalty to Britain (there would be self-governance under a federal parliament, but no rupture from British institutions), limited but significant home rule for a French-speaking majority in the new Province of Quebec (and a longed for solution to English-French tensions), and a collaboration of British North Americans in order to resist the pull and the possible military threat from the United States. The republic to the south had just finished its Civil War as a powerful and united nation with little affection for Britain or its colonial baggage strung along its northern border. So great was the perceived threat that even Queen Victoria thought, prior to Confederation, that it would be "impossible" for Britain to retain Canada.
In their search for an early identity, English Canadians relied heavily on loyalty and attachment to the British Empire, a triumphalist attitude towards British role in the building of Canada, as evidenced in the lyrics of the informal anthem The Maple Leaf Forever and distrust or dislike of those who were not British or Protestant. John Ralston Saul sees in the influence of the Orange Order the counterpart of the Ultramontane movement among French Canadians, leading certain groups of English Canadian Protestants to provoke persecution of the Métis and suppress or resist francophone rights.
After Confederation Canada became caught up in settlement of the west and extending the dominion to the Pacific Ocean. British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871. Residents of a British colony specifically established to forestall American territorial aspirations in the Fraser Valley, British Columbians were no strangers to the implications of the American doctrine of Manifest Destiny nor the economic attractions of the United States. The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, promised to British Columbia as an inducement to join the new dominion, became a powerful and tangible symbol of the nation's identity, linking the provinces and territories together from east to west in order to counteract the inevitable economic and cultural pull from the south.
The settlement of the west also brought to the fore the tensions between the English and French-speaking populations of Canada. The Red River Rebellion, led by Louis Riel, sought to defend the interests of French-speaking Métis against English-speaking Protestant settlers from Ontario. The controversial execution of Thomas Scott, a Protestant from Ontario, on Riel's orders and the furor that followed divided the new dominion along linguistic and religious lines. While Manitoba was created as a bilingual province in 1870 as a solution to the issue, the tensions remained, and would surface again in the Northwest Rebellion in the 1880s, when Riel led another rebellion against Ottawa.
CHILD EMIGRATION TO CANADA The attention of the Dominion Government has been drawn to the fact that the children sent to Canada from England are street waifs and workhouse paupers, and that the professional philanthropists engaged in the work are largely prompted by mercenary and not charitable motives. A demand will be made that parliament should investigate the matter before voting any money to promote this kind of immigration.
From the mid to late 19th century Canada had a policy of assisting immigrants from Europe, including city people and an estimated 100,000 unwanted "Home Children" from Britain. The modern descendants of these children have been estimated at five million, contributing to Canada's identity as the "country of the abandoned". Offers of free land attracted farmers from Central and Eastern Europe to the prairies, as well as large numbers of Americans who settled to a great extent in Alberta. Several immigrant groups settled in sufficient densities to create communities of a sufficient size to exert an influence on Canadian identity, such as Ukrainian Canadians. Canada began to see itself as a country that needed and welcomed people from countries besides its traditional sources of immigrants, accepting Germans, Poles, Dutch and Scandinavians in large numbers before the First World War.
At the same time, however, concerns regarding immigration from Asian sources revealed overtly xenophobic and racist attitudes among Canadians, particularly English Canadians on the Pacific coast. At the time for many Canadian identity, whatever it was to be, did not include non-Europeans. While inexpensive Chinese labour had been needed to complete the transcontinental railway, the completion of the railway led to questions of what to do with the workers who were now no longer needed. Further Chinese immigration was limited and then banned by a series of restrictive and racially motivated dominion statutes. The Komagata Maru incident in 1914 revealed overt hostility towards would-be immigrants, mainly Sikhs from India, who attempted to land in Vancouver.
- War bond posters, 1918
Canadian victory bond poster in French. Depicts three French women pulling a plow that had been constructed for horses and men. Lithograph, adapted from a photograph.
The same poster in English, with subtle differences in text. The French version roughly translates as 'All the world can serve' or 'Everyone can serve' and 'Let's buy victory bonds.'
The main crisis regarding Canadian identity came in World War I. Canadians of British heritage were strongly in favor of the war effort, while those of French heritage, especially in Quebec, showed far less interest. A series of political upheavals ensued, especially the Conscription Crisis of 1917. Simultaneously, the role of immigrants as loyal Canadians was contested, with large numbers of men of German or Ukrainian heritage temporarily stripped of voting rights or incarcerated in camps. The war helped define separate political identities for the two groups, and permanently alienated Quebec and the Conservative Party.
During this period, World War I helped to establish a separate Canadian identity among Anglophoners, especially through the military experiences of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Battle of Passchendaele and the intense homefront debates on patriotism. (A similar crisis, though much less intense, erupted in World War II.)
In the 1920s, the Dominion of Canada achieved greater independence from Britain, notably in the Statute of Westminster in 1931. It remained part of the larger Commonwealth but played an independent role in the League of Nations. As Canada became increasingly independent and sovereign, its primary foreign relationship and point of reference gradually moved to the United States, the superpower with whom it shared a long border and major economic, social and cultural relationships.
The Statute of Westminster also gave Canada its own monarchy, which remains in personal union with 15 other countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. However, overt associations with British nationalism wound down after the end of the Second World War, when Canada established its own citizenship laws in 1947. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, a number of symbols of the Crown were either removed completely (such as the Royal Mail) or changed (such as the Royal Arms of Canada).
In the 1960s, Quebec experienced the Quiet Revolution to modernize society from traditional Christian teachings. Québécois nationalists demanded independence, and tensions rose until violence erupted during the 1970 October Crisis. In 1976 the Parti Québécois was elected to power in Quebec, with a nationalist vision that included securing French linguistic rights in the province and the pursuit of some form of sovereignty for Quebec, leading to a referendum in 1980 in Quebec on the question of sovereignty-association, which was turned down by 59% of the voters. At the patriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982, the Quebec premier did not sign it; this led to two unsuccessful attempts to modify the constitution so it would be signed, and another referendum on Quebec independence in 1995 which was turned down by a small majority of 50.6%.
In 1965 Canada adopted the maple leaf flag, after considerable debate and misgivings on the part of a large number of English Canadians. Two years later the country celebrated the centennial of Confederation, with an international exposition in Montreal.
Legislative restrictions on immigration that had favoured British and other European immigrants were removed in the 1960s. By the 1970s immigrants increasingly came from India, Hong Kong, the Caribbean and Vietnam. Post-war immigrants of all backgrounds tended to settle in the major urban centres, particularly Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
During his long tenure in the office (1968–79, 1980–84), Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made social and cultural change his political goal for Canada, including the pursuit of an official policy on bilingualism and plans for significant constitutional change. The west, particularly the oil and gas-producing province of Alberta, opposed many of the policies emanating from central Canada, with the National Energy Program creating considerable antagonism and growing western alienation.
As for the role of history in national identity, the books of Pierre Berton and television series like Canada: A People's History have done much to spark the popular interest of Canadians in their history. Some commentators, such as Cohen, criticize the overall lack of attention paid by Canadians to their own history, noting a disturbing trend to ignore the broad history in favour of narrow focus on specific regions or groups.
It isn't just the schools, the museums and the government that fail us. It is also the professional historians, their books and periodicals. As J.L. Granatstein and Michael Bliss have argued, academic historians in Canada have stopped writing political and national history. They prefer to write labour history, women's history, ethnic history, and regional history, among others, often freighted with a sense of grievance or victimhood. This kind of history has its place, of course, but our history has become so specialized, so segmented, and so narrow that we are missing the national story in a country that has one and needs to hear it.
Much of the debate over contemporary Canadian identity is argued in political terms, and defines Canada as a country defined by its government policies, which are thought to reflect deeper cultural values. To the political philosopher Charles Blattberg, Canada should be conceived as a civic or political community, a community of citizens, one that contains many other kinds of communities within it. These include not only communities of ethnic, regional, religious, civic (the provincial and municipal governments) and civil associational sorts, but also national communities. Blattberg thus sees Canada as a multinational country and so asserts that it contains a number of nations within it. Aside from the various aboriginal First Nations, there is also the nation of francophone Quebecers, that of the anglophones who identify with English Canadian culture, and perhaps that of the Acadians.
In keeping with this, it is often asserted that Canadian government policies such as publicly funded health care, higher taxation to distribute wealth, outlawing capital punishment, strong efforts to eliminate poverty in Canada, an emphasis on multiculturalism, imposing strict gun control, leniency in regard to drug use and most recently legalizing same-sex marriage make their country politically and culturally different from the United States.
In a poll that asked what institutions made Canada feel most proud about their country, number one was health care, number two was the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and number three was peacekeeping. In a CBC contest to name "The Greatest Canadian", the three highest ranking in descending order were the social democratic politician and father of medicareTommy Douglas, the legendary cancer activist Terry Fox, and the Liberalprime ministerPierre Trudeau, responsible for instituting Canada's official policies of bilingualism and multiculturalism, which suggested that their voters valued left-of-centre political leanings and community involvement.
Most of Canada's recent prime ministers have been from Quebec, and thus have tried to improve relations with the province with a number of tactics, notably official bilingualism which required the provision of a number of services in both official languages and, among other things, required that all commercial packaging in Canada be printed in French and English. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's first legislative push was to implement the Royal Commission on Bilingualism within the Official languages Act in 1969. Again, while this bilingualism is a notable feature to outsiders, the plan has been less than warmly embraced by many English Canadians some of whom resent the extra administrative costs and the requirement of many key federal public servants to be fluently bilingual. Despite the widespread introduction of French-language classes throughout Canada, very few anglophones are truly bilingual outside of Quebec.
In 2013, more than 90% of Canadians believed that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the national flag were the top symbols of Canadian identity.
Migration to Canada
Canada was the home for 'American' British Loyalists during and following the American Revolution, making much of Canada distinct in its unwillingness to embrace republicanism and populist democracy during the nineteenth century. Canada was also the destination for slaves from America via the Underground Railroad (The 'North Star' as heralded by Martin Luther King Jr.); Canada was the refuge for American Vietnam draft-dodgers during the turbulent 1960s.
In response to a declining birth rate, Canada has increased the per capita immigration rate to one of the highest in the world. The economic impact of immigration to Canada is discussed as being positive by most of the Canadian media and almost all Canadian politicians.
A very common expression of Canadian identity is to ridicule American ignorance of things Canadian.
During his years with This Hour Has 22 Minutes, comic Rick Mercer produced a recurring segment, Talking to Americans. Petty says, the segment "was extraordinarily popular and was initiated by viewer demand." Mercer would pose as a journalist in an American city and ask passers-by for their opinions on a fabricated Canadian news story. Some of the "stories" for which he solicited comment included the legalization of staplers, the coronation of King Svend, the border dispute between Quebec and Chechnya, the campaign against the Toronto Polar Bear Hunt, and the reconstruction of the historic "Peter Mann's Bridge". During the 2000 election in the United States, Mercer successfully staged a Talking to Americans segment in which presidential candidate George W. Bush gratefully accepted news of his endorsement by Canadian Prime Minister "Jean Poutine".
While Canadians may dismiss comments that they do not find appealing or stereotypes that are patently ridiculous, Andrew Cohen believes that there is a value to considering what foreigners have to say: "Looking at Canadians through the eyes of foreigners, we get a sense of how they see us. They say so much about us: that we are nice, hospitable, modest, blind to our achievements. That we are obedient, conservative, deferential, colonial and complex, particularly so. That we are fractious, envious, geographically impossible and politically improbable." Cohen refers in particular to the analyses of the French historian André Siegfried, the Irish born journalist and novelist Brian Moore or the Canadian-born American journalist Andrew H. Malcolm.
French Canadians and Identity in English Canada
The Canadian philosopher and writer John Ralston Saul has expressed the view that the French fact in Canada is central to Canadian, and particularly to English Canadian identity:
It cannot be repeated enough that Quebec and, more precisely, francophone Canada is at the very heart of the Canadian mythology. I don't mean that it alone constitutes the heart, which is after all a complex place. But it is at the heart and no multiple set of bypass operations could rescue that mythology if Quebec were to leave. Separation is therefore a threat of death to anglophone Canada's whole sense of itself, of its self-respect, of its role as a constituent part of a nation, of the nature of the relationship between citizens."
Many Canadians believe that the relationship between the English and French languages is the central or defining aspect of the Canadian experience. Canada's Official Languages Commissioner (the federal government official charged with monitoring the two languages) has stated, "[I]n the same way that race is at the core of what it means to be American and at the core of an American experience and class is at the core of British experience, I think that language is at the core of Canadian experience."
Aboriginal Canadians and Canadian Identity
Saul argues that Canadian identity is founded not merely on the relationship built of French/English pragmatic compromises and cooperation but rests in fact on a triangular foundation which includes, significantly, Canada's aboriginal peoples. From the reliance of French and later English explorers on Native knowledge of the country, to the development of the indigenous Métis society on the Prairies which shaped what would become Canada, and the military response to their resistance to annexation by Canada, indigenous peoples were originally partners and players in laying the foundations of Canada. Individual aboriginal leaders, such as Joseph Brant or Tecumseh have long been viewed as heroes in Canada's early battles with the United States and Saul identifies Gabriel Dumont as the real leader of the Northwest Rebellion, although overshadowed by the better-known Louis Riel. While the dominant culture tended to dismiss or marginalize First Nations to a large degree, individual artists such as the British Columbia painter Emily Carr, who depicted the totem poles and other carvings of the Northwest Coast peoples, helped turn the then largely ignored and undervalued culture of the first peoples into iconic images "central to the way Canadians see themselves". First Nations art and iconography are now routinely integrated into public space intended to represent Canada, such as The Great Canoe", a sculpture by Haida artist Bill Reid in the courtyard of the Canadian embassy in Washington D.C. and its copy, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, at the apex of the main hall in the Vancouver Airport.
War of 1812
The War of 1812 is often celebrated in Ontario as a British victory for what would become Canada in 1867. The Canadian government spent $28 million on three years of bicentennial events, exhibits, historic sites, re-enactments, and a new national monument. The official goal was to make Canadians aware that:
- Canada would not exist had the American invasion of 1812-15 been successful.
- The end of the war laid the foundation for Confederation and the emergence of Canada as a free and independent nation.
- Under the Crown, Canada’s society retained its linguistic and ethnic diversity, in contrast to the greater conformity demanded by the American Republic.
In a 2012 poll, 25% of all Canadians ranked their victory in the War of 1812 as the second most important part of their identity after free health care (53%).
Canadian historians in recent decades look at the war as a defeat for the First Nations of Canada, and also for the merchants of Montreal (who lost the fur trade of the Michigan-Minnesota area). The British had a long-standing goal of building a "neutral" but pro-British Indian buffer state in the American Midwest. They demanded a neutral Indian state at the peace conference in 1814 but failed to gain any of it because they had lost control of the region in the Battle of Lake Erie and the Battle of the Thames in 1813, where Tecumseh was killed. The British then abandoned the Indians south of the lakes. The royal elite of (what is now) Ontario gained much more power in the aftermath and used that power to repel American ideas such as democracy and republicanism, especially in those areas of Ontario settled primarily by Americans. Many of those settlers returned to the states and were replaced by immigrants from Britain who were imperial-minded.W. L. Morton says the war was a "stalemate" but the Americans "did win the peace negotiations." Arthur Ray says the war made "matters worse for the native people" as they lost military and political power. Bumsted says the war was a stalemate but regarding the Indians "was a victory for the American expansionists." Thompson and Randall say "the War of 1812's real losers were the Native peoples who had fought as Britain's ally." On the other hand, the "1812 Great Canadian Victory Party will bring the War of 1812...to life," promised the sponsors of a festival in Toronto in November 2009.
Multiculturalism and identity
Further information: Multiculturalism in Canada
Multiculturalism and the state of inter-ethnic relations in Canada is relaxed and tolerant, allowing ethnic or linguistic particularism to exist unquestioned. In metropolitan areas such as Toronto and Vancouver, there is often a strong sense that multiculturalism is a normal and respectable expression of being Canadian. Canada is also considered a mosaic because of the multi-culturalism.
Supporters of Canadian multiculturalism will also argue that cultural appreciation of ethnic and religious diversity promotes a greater willingness to tolerate political differences, and multiculturalism is often cited as one of Canada's significant accomplishments and a key distinguishing element of Canadian identity. Richard Gwyn has suggested that "tolerance" has replaced "loyalty" as the touchstone of Canadian identity.
On the other hand, critics of Canada's multiculturalism argue that the country's "timid" attitude towards the assimilation of immigrants has actually weakened, not strengthened Canada's national identity through factionalism. Columnist and author Richard Gwyn expresses concern that Canada's sense of self may become so weak that it might vanish altogether. The indulgent attitude taken towards cultural differences is perhaps a side effect of the vexed histories of French-English and Aboriginal-settler relations, which have created a need for a civic national identity, as opposed to one based on some homogeneous cultural ideal. God willing, ethnic nationalism will trump civic nationalism, as multiculturalism is a divisive weakness celebrated only by cosmopolitan ideologues and political elites in an attempt to garner the support of and form voting blocs composed of the newest expensive batch of unwanted, culturally and morally corrosive foreigners, shamelessly selling out the Canadian identity as though it were a corporate branding scheme. 
In January 2007, Prime MinisterStephen Harper advised the creation of a new sub-ministerial cabinet portfolio with the title Canadian Identity for the first time in Canadian history, naming Jason Kenney to the position of Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity.
The Role of Canadian Social Policy and Identity
In Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values, the author, Michael Adams, head of the Environics polling company seeks distinctions between Canadians and Americans using polling research performed by his company as evidence. Critics of the idea of a fundamentally "liberal Canada" such as David Frum argue that the Canadian drive towards a more noticeably leftist political stance is largely due to the increasing role that Quebec plays in the Canadian government (three of the last five elected Prime Ministers have been Quebecers, four if one includes Ontarian born Paul Martin). Quebec historically was the most conservative, religious and traditional part of Canada. Since the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, however, it has become the most secular and social democratic region of Canada. However, it is noteworthy that many Western provinces (particularly Saskatchewan and British Columbia) also have reputations as supporting leftist and social democratic policies. For example, Saskatchewan is one of the few provinces (all in the West) to reelect social democratic governments and is the cradle of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and its successor the New Democratic Party. Much of the energy of the early Canadian feminist movement occurred in Manitoba.
By contrast, the Conservative provincial government of Alberta has frequently quarrelled with federal administrations perceived to be dominated by "eastern liberal elites."  Part of this is due to what Albertans feel were federal intrusions on provincial jurisdictions such as the National Energy Program and other attempts to 'interfere' with Albertan oil resources.
- The search for the Canadian identity often shows some whimsical results. To outsiders, this soul-searching (or, less charitably, navel-gazing) seems tedious or absurd, inspiring the Monty Python sketch Whither Canada?
- In 1971, Peter Gzowski of CBC Radio's This Country in the Morning held a competition whose goal was to compose the conclusion to the phrase: "As Canadian as..." The winning entry was "... possible, under the circumstances." It was sent in to the program by Heather Scott.
- Robertson Davies, one of Canada's best known novelists, once commented about his homeland: "Some countries you love. Some countries you hate. Canada is a country you worry about."
- Pierre Berton, a Canadian journalist and novelist, said: "A Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe without tipping it."[verify]
- British novelist Douglas Adams said each country was like a particular type of person, and "Canada is like an intelligent 35 year old woman". America, on the other hand, is a "belligerent adolescent boy" and Australia is "Jack Nicholson".[verify]
- Prime Minister Mackenzie King quipped that Canada was a country with "not enough history, too much geography".[verify]
- According to John A. Macdonald, the "special genius" of Canadian identity was that "it asks but one thing of its adherents: complete and total submission to the will of the state. Once that has been accepted, everything else Canadian follows." Pierre Trudeau largely agreed, saying that "To a Canadian, the only virtue is loyalty; the only sin, disobedience."[verify]
- ^John Ralston Saul, Reflections of a Siamese Twin: Canada at the End of the 20th Century, Toronto: Viking Canada, 1997, p. 439
- ^Philip Resnick, The European Roots of Canadian Identity, Peterborough: Broadview Press Ltd, 2005 p. 63
- ^Roy McGregor, Canadians: A Portrait of a Country and Its People, Toronto: Viking Canada, 2007
- ^Saul,Reflections of a Siamese Twin p. 8.
- ^"Biculturalism", The Canadian Encyclopedia (2010) online
- ^ abLipset (1990)
- ^Magocsi, (1999)
- ^Margaret Atwood, Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Lieterature
La prise de conscience du fait culturel, la compétence interculturelle et le combat contre la xénophobie sont des concepts fondamentaux dans les cursus scolaires allemands. Si l’on examine les supports pédagogiques utilisés en classe d’Anglais Langue Étrangère (ALÉ), on remarque que la plupart des chapitres débutent par des éléments factuels et des statistiques – en général des informations sur la situation géographique et l’histoire du pays étranger – dans l’objectif de consolider les acquis fondamentaux. Certes, dans le cas du Canada, ces précisions sont utiles afin d’introduire cette société, complexe en raison de son hétérogénéité, à l’apprenant mais ne peuvent contribuer à une meilleure compréhension des habitants. Le multiculturalisme – trait distinctif d’une société canadienne moderne – et la quête d’une identité culturelle et d’une « identité nationale » (si cela existe) ne peuvent être considérés d’un point de vue eurocentrique et ne peuvent se définir à travers les stéréotypes et les symboles. En revanche, les supports pédagogiques devraient essayer de présenter les facettes d’une Canadianité qui mène inévitablement à des généralisations d’autant qu’ils sont censés correspondre aux réalités du pays. Afin de résoudre ce problème, les concepteurs de supports pédagogiques présentent la plupart du temps un recueil de textes authentiques, supposés être représentatifs des différentes communautés culturelles ou, du moins, offrir un panorama des différents points de vue.
Index de mots-clés :canadianité, étude comparée, identité, image de soi, minorité ethnique, multiculturalisme, perspective eurocentrique, post-colonialisme, programme scolaire, stéréotype
Index by keywords :Canadianness, cultural awareness, curriculum, ethnic minority, Eurocentric perspective, garrison mentality, identity, intercultural competence, multiculturalism, postcolonial, self-image, stereotype, survival, symbols of Canada, victim mentality, xenophobia
Index chronologique :20th century, XXe siècle
Index thématique et géographique :Allemagne, Canada, culture, éducation, education, Germany, histoire, history, literature, littérature, Québec, Quebec, société, societyHaut de page
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Only when there is an Other can you know who you are.
1For more than one hundred years teaching materials for the EFL classroom in Germany have been concerned with Great Britain and with the United States of America (especially after World War II). Nowadays there is a growing interest in other English-speaking countries, e.g. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. Modern curricula reflect the increasing significance of these countries for teaching the English language and the literatures of anglophone countries. Their multicultural societies are appropriate objects for intercultural teaching and learning. Along with communicative competence, which was introduced to German classrooms in the early 1970s, intercultural competence has become one of the most important key concepts of teaching and learning. According to the aims of intercultural education students are to develop intercultural understanding, empathy, tolerance and they should learn to accept cultural differences and otherness. In the last twenty years a great number of books and articles on introducing foreign cultures to our students have been published to make them acknowledge cultural differences and commonalities and recognize their preconceived images and hetero-stereotypes. Again, most of these publications deal with US-American society and British society. Only a few, though a growing number, focus on, for example, cultural communities in Canada, Australia or South Africa. In order to illustrate the complex interrelationships in multicultural societies it is not sufficient to present facts and figures, customs and traditions, but to enable the learner to change the perspective, to evaluate attitudes and to redefine his / her self-image and image of the target culture(s).
2As the following chapters show it is necessary to combine both educational and cultural aspects to present modern Canadian society adequately as a topic in the EFL classroom, in order not to present the country from a Eurocentric perspective.
What German students know about Canada
3In 2002 and 2003, 122 undergraduate students of English took part in a survey which I conducted at the University of Würzburg in order to obtain information on their previous knowledge of Canada. They were asked about three main topics, namely ‘society,’ ‘literature,’ and ‘culture’. First they were supposed to draw a simple map of Canada which was supposed to comprise the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence River. Although many of the students’ maps correspond more or less to the factual geographical conditions some show that a considerable number of students do not have the slightest idea of the country’s natural features, e.g.:
There is only ‘one’ Great Lake (Fig. 1).
The Great Lakes are at the foot of the Rocky Mountains (with Alaska being in the north-eastern part of North-America; Fig. 2).
The Rocky Mountains stretch from East to West and the Great Lakes are somewhere in the (sub)arctic north (Fig. 3).
The St. Lawrence River runs from the Rocky Mountains—which mark the American-Canadian border—westward to the Atlantic Ocean (Fig. 4).
The Great Plains are in the north-west of Canada next to Alaska (Fig. 5).
Fig. 1 A German student’s map of Canada
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Fig. 2 A German student’s map of Canada
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Fig. 3 A German student’s map of Canada
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Fig. 4 A German student’s map of Canada
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Fig. 5 A German student’s map of Canada
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4Even more surprising than the lack of geographical knowledge are the students’ answers to the question ‘Which cultural communities / ethnic groups live in Canada?’ As the students do not know the term ‘hyphenated Canadians’, their answers reflect the image of a multicultural society which is not Canadian but an amalgamation of different nations. They also reveal the Eurocentric perspective which regards the English- and the French-speaking communities as dominant cultural groups whereas the indigenous population is an exotic, albeit distinctive feature of society. The ‘real Canadians’ are the Anglo- and French-Canadians. All the other groups are marginalized cultural facets. The different communities were termed as follows, e.g.
5Further questions which were closely related to the question on the cultural heterogeneity of the population were
about the symbols of Canada, especially about those which Canadians identify with and
about the students’ hetero-stereotypes of Canada.
6Both issues aimed at the national identity of the Canadians—the first one from the presumed Canadian perspective, the second one from the German perspective. The answers reveal that the dominant symbol of Canada undoubtedly is the Maple Leaf. Apart from this unifying symbol the students mentioned the Mounties, the beaver, the moose, the grizzly bear, ice hockey and in some cases CN Tower in Toronto. Some of the distinct features of Canada are
the enormous size of the country,
the snow and
the lumberjacks living in log houses.
7All these features represent characteristic facets of the country’s image German students have. It is obvious that this is a romanticized and picturesque image2 which derives from early exploration and travel literature and which is also presented in Karl May’s popular stories about the Aboriginal peoples, the ‘Indian tribes,’ in North America. As Daniel Francis notes:
But no one could rival the popularity of Karl May. A native of Germany, May never even visited the American West, but this didn’t stop him from setting dozens of his novels there, featuring Indians that read Longfellow and spoke German. Ridiculous as they may seem in retrospect, May’s books were translated into twenty languages and were read by an estimated 300 million people.3
8Neither modern Canada with its complex multicultural and polyethnic society nor the peoples’ search for cultural, national, regional or other identities are taken into consideration when thinking of the country. Therefore it is necessary to look at the Canadians’ view of their native country and at various aspects of their self-image to gain a better understanding of how Canada can be introduced in the EFL classroom and how multiculturalism contributes to modifying the preconceived images of our students.
The Self-Image of the Canadians
9If we search the Internet for the self-image Canadians have of their native country, we might be presented national symbols or national emblems which reflect both the history of the country and the pride in being Canadian. Take for example the homepage of Canadian Heritage / Patrimoine canadien where national symbols are described as follows:
The symbols of Canada can heighten not only our awareness of our country but also our sense of celebration in being Canadian. The symbols of Canada are a celebration of what we are as a people.
– The Arms of Canada
– The National Flag
– The Royal Union Flag
– Other National Emblems4
10In particular, the National Flag—to be more precise—the Maple Leaf is the symbol on which Canadianness despite all social, regional, racial, ethnic or religious differences is based. It is a symbol of integration, of unity, of independence, and of pride.5 On the Canadian Heritage / Patrimoine canadien homepage the national flag is regarded as
A symbol of Canadian identity
[...] The following words, spoken on that momentous day by the Honourable Maurice Bourget, Speaker of the Senate, added further symbolic meaning to our flag: ‘The flag is the symbol of the nation’s unity, for it, beyond any doubt, represents all the citizens of Canada without distinction of race, language, belief or opinion.’6
11A further characteristic facet is the beaver, to name only one of the many features representing Canadian history and the citizen’s close relationship to nature.
12One of the most influential, albeit ‘traditional’7 theoretical approaches to define Canadian identity was presented by Margaret Atwood in her seminal work Survival. A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature. In her book, Atwood discusses and exemplifies the concept of ‘survival’ which in her opinion is a key concept in Canadian literature and which various cultural communities, especially the dominant cultural groups (the Anglo-Canadians and the French-Canadians), can identify with. Atwood outlines her idea as follows:
I’d like to begin with a sweeping generalization and argue that every country or culture has a single and informing symbol at its core. [...] The symbol, then—be it word, phrase, idea, image, or all of these—functions like a system of beliefs (it is a system of beliefs, though not always a formal one) which holds the country together and helps the people to co-operate for common ends. Possibly the symbol for America is The Frontier, [...]. The corresponding symbol for England is perhaps The Island, [...]. The central symbol for Canada—and this is based on numerous instances of its occurrence in both English and French Canadian literature—is undoubtedly Survival, la Survivance. Like the Frontier and The Island, it is a multi-faceted and adaptable idea. For early explorers and settlers, it meant bare survival in the face of ‘hostile’ elements and/or natives: carving out a place and a way of keeping alive. [...] For French Canada after the English took over it became cultural survival, hanging on as a people, retaining a religion and a language under an alien government. And in English Canada now while the Americans are taking over it is acquiring a similar meaning.8
13She deduces from the concept of survival a ‘victim mentality,’ as Shannon Hengen points out:
The motif of Canadians as survivors with a victim mentality, which, she argues, describes many characters in Canadian fiction, is in fact frequently evoked by other critics to describe Atwood’s own characters.9
14A similar concept based on nature was developed by the critic Northrop Frye who focuses on the influences of the surroundings on the individual. It is especially the environmental conditions, to be more precise the vast wilderness and the extreme climate, which lead to the isolation of man. This isolation determines the character of the country and its people. Frye describes the special situation of Canada in his pioneering book The Bush Garden. Essays on Canadian Imagination as follows:
It is not a nation but an environment that makes an impact on poets, and poetry can deal only with the imaginative aspect of that environment. A country with almost no Atlantic seaboard, which for most of its history has existed in practically one dimension; a country divided by two languages and great stretches of wilderness, so that its frontier is a circumference rather than a boundary; a country with huge rivers and islands that most of its natives have never seen; a country that has made a nation out of the stops on two of the world’s longest railway lines: this is the environment that Canadian poets have to grapple with, and many of the imaginative problems it presents have no counterpart in the United States, or anywhere else.
In older countries the works of man and of nature, the city and the garden of civilization, have usually reached some kind of imaginative harmony. But the land of the Rockies and the Precambrian Shield impresses painter and poet alike by its raw colours and angular rhythms, its profoundly unhumanized isolation.10
15The most distinctive feature of the individual is his/her ‘garrison mentality’ which resulted from the need of the early settlers to protect themselves from the intimidating physical environment, from enemies and even from influences from other cultures. Frye argues:
Small and isolated communities surrounded with a physical or psychological ‘frontier’, separated from one another and from their American and British cultural sources: communities that provide all that their members have in the way of distinctively human values, and that are compelled to feel a great respect for the law and order that holds them together, yet confronted with a huge, unthinking, menacing, and formidable physical setting—such communities are bound to develop what we may provisionally call a garrison mentality. In the earliest maps of the country the only inhabited centres are forts, and that remains true of the cultural maps for a much later time. [...] A garrison is a closely knit and beleaguered society, and its moral and social values are unquestionable.11
16All the above-mentioned aspects are basic elements of the cultural heritage and the history of the country—a country which needs unifying symbols to overcome spatial, cultural and ethnic differences, as is stated on the homepage of The Department of Canadian Heritage: “Canada is a land of diversity, embracing vast differences, within its borders and among its peoples. For Canadians, symbols provide connections across space and time and are a source of unity and pride.”12 However, all these symbols do not adequately reflect the polyethnic and multicultural society of modern Canada. These symbols are either Eurocentric or ‘culturally neutral.’13 Smaro Kamboureli, one of the most famous scholars in the field of Canadian literature, comments on Atwood and Frye:
Canadian literature, created, published, taught and critiqued under the aegis of Canadian nationalism promotes the settler-colonial view of Canada. Nationalist critics like Northrop Frye, Margaret Atwood, D G Jones and John Moss produced an essentialized Canadian character that, according to them, was discoverable in the literary texts of canonical Canadian writers. Canadians, these revered critics have told us, suffered from a garrison mentality because of their intimidating physical environment. They developed a victim complex, aiming only for survival rather than grandiose achievements unlike their neighbours to the south.
Although these environmentalist explanations of a Canadian identity, as well as the very obsession with a Canadian identity, have been challenged often enough, they have not been replaced yet by more inclusive theories of Canada and Canadian literature. Now we hear talk about postmodernist irony and dominants and marginals, but we do not hear any concerted responses to what Aboriginal and racial minority writers tell us about Canada and Canadian literature. Like our political leaders, who virtually ignored Aboriginal and racial minority Canadians’ concerns when they came up with their Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords, much critical theory continues to be churned out in Canada that is premised on notions of Canada’s duality and remains profoundly oblivious to Aboriginal and racial minority voices.14
17From the viewpoint of postcolonial theory, the question arises whether the search for a Canadian identity can be considered as a quest for a postcolonial identity which to a large extent is defined by being different from the former colonizer England. In 2003 Laura Moss edited the book Is Canada Postcolonial? Unsettling Canadian Literature, which is a detailed negotiation of the issue of a ‘postcolonial’ Canadian literature and of a ‘postcolonial’ Canadian society.15 Five years before, Arun P. Mukherjee criticized in her book Postcolonialism: My Living the applicability of postcolonial theory to Canadian literature—referring to Bill Ashcroft’s, Gareth Griffiths’s und Helen Tiffin’s seminal work The Empire Writes Back. Theory and practice in post-colonial literatures:16
The problem with this unitary theorizing which insists on speaking about all ‘postcolonial culture’ as one and which selectively focuses on issues of identity, hybridity, creolization, language, subversion of imperial texts, parody and mimicry, etc. is that it gives the impression that the texts being written in postcolonial societies are really about the angst of losing one’s precolonial identity and language. In fact, that is not the case. I have heard and read many writers comment about their unproblematic relationship with English. Nor are they concerned with ‘subverting’ or ‘appropriating’ Eurocentric codes as the Empire Writes Back type of criticism claims. Instead, they are concerned with writing about their societies’ material and ideological conditions. Aboriginal Canadian writers Maria Campbell and Jeannette Armstrong write about the realities of Native life and political struggles of Native peoples. [...] The Caribbean Canadian writer Dionne Brand ‘interrogates’ Derek Walcott and not some British writer in her poetry.17
18To put it in a nutshell, Smaro Kamboureli concludes that the “unity of Canadian identity is a cultural myth, a myth that can be sustained only by eclipsing the identities of others. We are at the point now where the presumed uniqueness of Canadian identity is only that—a presumption.”18 Kamboureli’s argument seems to be the most convincing explanation because cultural and ethnic diversity of Canadian society makes it impossible to deduce an inclusive national identity or an inclusive ‘Canadian character.’19 Nevertheless, one can be Canadian just by being born in Canada. In an interview with Linda Hutcheon, Rudy Wiebe replied thus to the question "As a Mennonite, do you consider yourself part of an ‘ethnic’ group? Do you even think of yourself in this light at all?":
Very rarely. I’m a Canadian because I was born here; I’m as Canadian as anyone can be, though my parents had only lived here four years when I was born. The fact is, a Mennonite has no country; that makes one different from being a Ukrainian, Greek or, as in your case, Italian. Since I come from no country, I also cannot ‘return’ to one, so in effect wherever I am, that’s my country.20
19The issue of Canadian identity illustrates the difficulties we have in introducing Canada and its people to our students.21 We have to smooth the way for our students to widen their horizon and to initiate cultural awareness which, according to Peter Doyé, comprises the following aims: “To arouse interest in culture and the variety of cultures,” “To convey knowledge about culture and particular cultures,” “To enable learners to analyse and interpret culture-bound behaviour and cultural products” and “To improve competence in intercultural behaviour.”22
Teaching Materials on Canada for the EFL Classroom
20One of the most promising German Internet resources is the homepage ‘Education Canada’ which provides valuable information for teaching and learning purposes (cf. <http://www.education-canada.de/Classroom/Classroom.html>). Albert Rau who runs this homepage outlines the aims of this Internet resource as follows:
In addition to the multiple activities at various universities in the German -speaking countries, Canada has also become a topic in many English language classes at high school level, which is particularly due to an increasing volume of articles, anthologies and books that have become available in the past 20 years, focussing on Commonwealth literature and on Canada in particular. Furthermore, this development also applies to an increasing interest in French language teaching as well as in the Geography and History classroom. Therefore, this website, previously intended as a tool for teachers of English, has now been expanded to French, Geography and History.
It is not only the multitude of literary texts, background information and cultural topics that have become available for teachers, students, scholars and interested people, but also the Internet has developed into a valuable source of information about various aspects related to Canada. Since introducing students to the multifaceted possibilities of the Internet has become a teaching goal, the different sources of information that are offered on the Internet about Canada and its unique culture, people and geography provide an invaluable tool for everybody interested. For example, Canada is actually the first country in the world that has connected all its schools to the Internet.
Thus, this homepage is intended as a guide, online reference and research tool listing on the one hand bibliographical information and comments on published school materials, articles, anthologies etc. and on the other offering several portals with links and cross-references providing information on a variety of subjects and topics.
‘Education-Canada’ is primarily designed for teachers who intend to integrate Canada into their teaching syllabus, but should also be useful for students and experts in the field not only from the German-speaking countries, but basically for anybody related to the teaching of Canadiana or only interested in Canada and its people.23
21The following examples taken from teaching materials used in the EFL classroom illustrate the basic principles in presenting a foreign country to learners of English. Admittedly, these examples are only a small selection of the diverse materials on Canada. However, they are typical examples of how the image of the target culture(s) is constructed and of how stereotypes dominate our imagination as is shown, for example, in English in Action 4H which was published in 1982. Here, the learners are offered facts and figures to provide them with background information—as is done in many textbooks. What attracts our attention first are the photos which focus on wilderness, wildlife and the beauty of the landscape as distinctive features of the country. The text underlines this image:
Canada has many different kinds of landscape. A lot of the land is rocky and a lot is in an Arctic climate. There are very high mountains, large forests, and very big lakes and rivers. Almost all Canadian rivers have rapids and falls. The most famous are the Niagara Falls. [...] In the Arctic there are seals, the polar bear, the Arctic wolf and the white fox. Further south there are the moose, beaver, the Canada lynx and the black bear. Many different species of birds, e.g. the Canada jay, the cardinal, the Baltimore oriole and the catbird.24
22This is exactly what students expect due to their previous knowledge. Whereas the description of the physical environment might be acceptable, the information about the population is not. The indigenous peoples are termed “Indians” and “Eskimos” (instead of ‘Aboriginal peoples,’ ‘First Nations’ or ‘Inuit’) and those cultural groups which are not of British or French descent are called “Germans, Ukrainians, Scandinavians, Dutch, Poles.”25 This implies that they are not Canadians. To be correct, we have to call them ‘hyphenated Canadians,’ namely ‘Ukrainian-Canadians,’ ‘Scandinavian-Canadians,’ ‘Dutch-Canadians,’ and ‘Polish-Canadians.’
23If we look at the following example taken from the textbook America: People and Places (Fig. 6) we notice that facts and figures are used again. In this case statistics depict cultural diversity; they are compared with statistics on Germany. From the teacher’s point of view it is questionable whether this approach really contributes to intercultural learning by reducing multiculturalism to figures.26 As one of the fundamental concepts in German curricula, intercultural learning aims at understanding the other, at developing empathy and tolerance and at fighting xenophobia. One of the most important aspects of intercultural education is the ‘us vs them’ opposition (or ‘we vs they’ opposition) which is described by Peter Doyé as follows:
Most human beings function best and feel most at home in their own group, in their own culture. They have been socialized in it, i.e. have internalized its patterns of thinking, valuing and acting and, when confronted with other patterns, tend to reject them for the simple reason that they are unfamiliar. [...] Thinking in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’ i.e. placing the group to which one belongs in opposition to a group or groups of others seems to be a fundamental characteristic of all human cognition. We do not know of any culture or language in which this opposition does not exist.27
24And in view of stereotypes and attitudes Magdalena Telus remarks:
Like all petrified concepts, the ‘we’ vs ‘they’ opposition seems to have many positive functions, such as giving orientation, strengthening the self, fostering integration, economy etc.. But it has also many disadvantages: it impairs flexibility, maintains the separation between groups and encourages negative views of the out-group.
The ‘we’ vs ‘they’ opposition ignores the fact that an individual is at the same time a member of many groups and there are no social groups with sharp boundaries. It highlights a certain set of features [...] and easily overlooks that there are other features and that group construction comes out in a quite different way if one takes these other features into consideration. The pedagogical approach of intercultural learning can be seen as a reaction to the ‘we’ vs ‘they’ opposition as a perception scheme. Learners have to develop through intercultural learning the capability of counteracting this opposition’s deficiencies.28
25If we want to find out what makes a Canadian and what are the facets of Canadian mentality or identity it is not sufficient to compare facts and figures or to show national emblems (as is done, for example, in American and Canadian Short Stories 29). The following statement by Sylvia Söderlind aims at this consideration:
In order for something to possess an identity, it must be different from everything that is not it. In order for something to be different from what is not it, it must be clearly delimited and set off from what surrounds it. Consequently, identity can only be perceived in terms of difference and delimitation or demarcation. The existential question ‘Who am I?’ can essentially be paraphrased as ‘In what way am I different from others?’.30
Fig. 6 Statistics on Canada and Germany 31
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26Whereas many of those textbooks which were published in the 1980s (and before) presented mainly facts and figures—it was only in the mid-1980s that intercultural education became of growing importance in the EFL classroom in Germany—modern textbooks focus more and more on those aspects which enable the student to look behind the curtain of factual knowledge. The learner is expected to create in his mind a differentiated image of the target culture(s) which results from a process of evaluating cultural phenomena. Foreign countries and cultures are no longer regarded as a source of background information for teaching the language and literature of a country. And they are no longer represented by traditions and customs—as is still done in tourist brochures.32 We can find this modern approach in the textbook Summit. Unlike the facts- and figures-based textbooks Summit discusses the country’s search for a national identity which is “wonderfully complex.”33 In addition, “Canada tends to retain visible cultural and ethnic identities through the generations.”34 The multicultural society is described by the terms “richly spiced”35 and “diversity of ethnic groups”36 and it is said that Canada is different from the United States, from Great Britain and from France. It is this difference which makes the Canadian identity. But still, Canada is not viewed from the perspective of Canadians. It is the Eurocentric perspective which is omnipresent.
27A newspaper article on the following pages of this unit exemplifies cultural diversity and the issue of identity in Canada (Fig. 7 and Fig. 8). This article is about the contribution of immigrants and minority groups to Canadian society. It is not only the cultural influence which can be recognized in all fields of everyday life. As human resources, these people also contribute to demographic and economic development as the journalist Charles Trueheart writes in his newspaper article:
In any case, there is more than nobility behind Canada’s embrace of newcomers. Immigrants and refugees keep this vast, thinly populated country from losing population. Immigrants contribute to the tax base and the job pool and open lucrative commercial lines to their home countries.37
28What is new here, is that many problems faced by multicultural societies are mentioned: isolation, fragmentation, integration and acculturation. The questions about the newspaper article expect the learner to utter his/her critical opinion of the matter. The learner even is supposed to compare his/her situation with the situation described in the text on Canada. This is called komparatistische Landeskunde (‘comparative area studies’) in German curricula.
Fig. 7 The ‘Canadian identity’38
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Fig. 8 The ‘Canadian identity’39
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29A further example of immigration and multiculturalism is depicted in Fig. 9 and in Fig. 10. This unit is taken from the textbook Canadian Mosaic—Mosaïque canadienne which is partly in English, partly in French. Again, the learner is to compare the situation in Canada with the situation in Germany concerning immigration. In contrast to the aforementioned example this unit concentrates on statistics and the ethnic stratification of the population. Problems resulting from the confrontation of cultures are neglected:
Si les immigrants d’origine germanique, ukrainienne et italienne forment encore aujourd’hui les trois principaux groupes de Canadiens nés hors du pays, la nouvelle vague d’immigration amène maintenant plutôt des Centraméricains (dont le nombre a triplé depuis 1981), des Chinois (ils ont doublé) et des étrangers en provenance du Moyen-Orient (hausse de 81 %).40
Fig. 9 Immigration and Multiculturalism41
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Fig. 10 Immigration and Multiculturalism42
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30The textbooks Summit (Fig. 11) and Canada (Fig. 12) negotiate the issue of a national identity by citing the writers Peter C. Newman and Andrei Voznesensky, the actor Robert Morley, the historian Richard A. Preston, and the critic Northrop Frye (see Northrop Frye’s The Bush Garden, in chapter 3). These authentic voices represent different views of the Canadian character and mentality. Their comments on this character are related to climatic conditions and the natural environment. Richard A. Preston puts it bluntly:
Canadians often appear to suffer from a pronounced inferiority complex resulting from their proximity to the United States. They are probably the only people in the world whose nationalism consists mainly in complaining that there is no real national identity in the country.43
Fig. 11 The ‘Canadian Character’44
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31One of the decisive criteria of teaching foreign cultures is the learners’ identification with boys and girls of the peer group. In spite of all cultural and national differences, identification makes the process of understanding the other easier. The learner is more willing to take the other’s perspective over and to learn about the other’s everyday life, about the other’s problems and about the society of the target culture. The textbook Colourful Canada offers many opportunities to develop empathy and to initiate understanding. A young Inuit, a young Mohawk Indian and a young Chinese-Canadian are telling about their lives in Canada and about their opinions of cultural, ethnic and national identity:
I’m glad we have a modern home, but I’m also proud that we still live by the old ways. My father and uncles, and my cousin Ken and I hunt walrus and seals. There are probably only a few hundred families left who continue this tradition. It’s a hard life. [...] I went to school in the village church when I was little, and then to Inuvik High School until I was 15. Then I left to become a hunter. All my school friends went to work in the oil and gas fields, and most of them have become like Canadians now. They eat hamburgers and French fries, watch videos and earn a lot of money. They say I’m living in the past, and that hunting will only get more difficult. They may be right, but for now I’ll keep on trying. It’s the way of our people, and it’s the way I want to live.46
My life as an Indian is similar to, and yet different from, the life of the young white people who live outside the reserve. Although we play on [sic] the same school teams and share in each other’s lives in many ways, there are sometimes tensions between us. It’s a pity we don’t always respect each other’s cultures.47
I think of myself as Canadian, and although I am very proud of my Chinese cultural heritage, I will never live in the traditional Chinese way that my parents do. [...] I feel I am more Canadian than my parents and my friends are a mixture of nationalities.48
32The last example from the textbook Canada is a text by Don McIvor who is talking about the problem of being Canadian and belonging to an ethnic minority group—to the Métis (Fig. 13 and Fig. 14). It is also about multiculturalism and the unity of the country which can be realised if all the cultural communities regard themselves as Canadian. McIvor says:
I am Canadian first and a Métis second. Some of my people get angry at me for saying this. But if everybody isn’t a Canadian first, we cannot keep the country together. It is just damn foolishness to think that the Métis or any of the different racial groups could prosper if Canada broke up into a lot of little countries.49
Fig. 13 The Perspective of a Métis50
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Fig. 14 The Perspective of a Métis51
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33Along with Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India, Canada is of growing interest to learners of English in Germany. Whereas those textbooks which were published in the 1980s and before mainly focused on facts and figures to provide background information on Canada to our students, modern teaching materials try to enable the learner to initiate cultural awareness and to develop intercultural competence, i.e. for example to arouse interest in the variety of target cultures and to interpret culture-bound behaviour, perspectives and attitudes. Canada is a very suitable object to study the complexity of a multicultural society and the issue of a national identity. The examples taken from textbooks showed that we have to view identity (or identities) from various, non-Eurocentric perspectives. The large number of cultural and ethnic communities in Canada, especially the non-dominant groups, influences our preconceived image of the country which is to a large extent based on heterostereotypes. Minority voices and the perspective of marginalized groups contribute to reaching the aims of intercultural education and to reconsidering our self-image and our views of foreign cultures.
English in Action 4H, München: Langenscheidt-Longman, 1982,
GAST Eberhard (Ed.), Summit. Grund- und Leistungskurs Englisch, Paderborn: Schöningh, 1997.
KLAUS Peter (Ed.), Canadian Mosaic—Mosaïque canadienne, Berlin: Cornelsen, 1993.
MASON Roger Burford, Colourful Canada, Berlin: Cornelsen, 1992.
NISCHIK Reingard M. (Ed.), American and Canadian Short Stories, Paderborn: Schöningh, 1994.
OSER Kurt (Ed.), Canada, Perspectives 9, Stuttgart: Klett, 1989.
PARR Robert, America: People and Places, München: TR-Verlagsunion, 2000.
ASHCROFT Bill, Gareth GRIFFITHS and Helen TIFFIN, The Empire Writes Back. Theory and practice in post-colonial literatures, London/New York: Routledge, 1989.
ATWOOD Margaret, Survival. A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, Toronto: Anansi, 1972.
Doyé Peter, The Intercultural Dimension. Foreign Language Education in the Primary School, Berlin: Cornelsen, 1999.
FRANCIS Daniel, The Imaginary Indian. The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture, Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp, 2000.
FRYE Northrop, The Bush Garden. Essays on Canadian Imagination, Concord: Anansi, 1995.
GODARD Barbara, “The Discourse of the Other: Canadian Literature and the Question of Ethnicity,” The Massachusetts Review, 31/1-2, 1990, 153-184.
HALL Stuart, “Ethnicity: Identity and Difference,” Radical America, 23/4, 1989, 9-20.
HENGEN Shannon, “ATWOOD, Margaret Eleanor,” in William H. New (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada, Toronto, Buffalo und London: University of Toronto Press, 2002, 48-51.
HOGAN Patrick Colm, Colonialism and Cultural Identity. Crises of Tradition in the Anglophone Literatures of India, Africa, and the Caribbean, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.
HUTCHEON Linda, “Rudy Wiebe: Interview by Linda Hutcheon,” in Linda HUTCHEON and Marion RICHMOND (Eds.), Other Solitudes. Canadian Multicultural Fictions, Toronto: Oxford UP, 1990, 80-86.
HUTCHEON Linda, Splitting Images. Contemporary Canadian Ironies, Toronto: OUP, 1991.
HUTCHEON Linda, “The Field Notes of a Public Critic,” in Northrop Frye, The Bush Garden. Essays on Canadian Imagination, Concord: Anansi, 21995, vii-xx.
KAMBOURELI Smaro (Ed.), Making a Difference. Canadian Multicultural Literature, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1996.
KELLER Wolfram R., “Of Imagined Nations, Imperial Duplicity, and the Canada to Come: A Conversation with David Williams,” Ahornblätter, 15, 2002, 35-58.
Löschnigg Maria and Martin Löschnigg, Kurze Geschichte der kanadischen Literatur, Stuttgart: Klett, 2001.
MILNER Andrew and Jeff BROWITT, Contemporary Cultural Theory. An Introduction, London und New York: Routledge, 2002.
MOSS Laura (Ed.), Is Canada Postcolonial? Unsettling Canadian Literature, Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2003.
Mukherjee Arun P., Postcolonialism: My Living, Toronto: TSAR, 1998.
POOLE Ross, “National Identity and Citizenship,” in Linda Martín ALCOFF und Eduardo MENDIETA (Eds.), Identities. Race, Class, Gender, and Nationality, Malden: Blackwell, 2003, 271-280.
Söderlind Sylvia, “Identity and Metamorphosis in Canadian Fiction Since the Sixties,” in Britta Olinder (Ed.), A Sense of Place. Essays in Post-colonial Literatures, Göteborg: Gothenburg University, 78-84.
TELUS Magdalena, “The ‘we’ vs ‘they’ opposition,” Internationale Schulbuchforschung, 19/2, 1997, 137-140.
The Department of Canadian Heritage, Symbols of Canada, Ottawa, Ont.: Canadian Government Publishing, 2002.
<http://www.education-canada.de/Classroom/Classroom.html> (July 20, 2005).
<http://www.education-canada.de/index-english.html> (July 20, 2005).
<http://www.pch.gc.ca/progs/cpsc-ccsp/sc-cs/df1_e.cfm> (June 27, 2005).
<http://www.pch.gc.ca/progs/cpsc-ccsp/sc-cs/index_e.cfm> (June 27, 2005).
1 Stuart HALL, “Ethnicity: Identity and Difference,” Radical America, 23/4, 1989, 16.
2 Cf. Maria Löschnigg and Martin Löschnigg, Kurze Geschichte der kanadischen Literatur, Stuttgart: Klett, 2001, 15.
3 Daniel Francis, The Imaginary Indian. The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture, Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp, 62000, 73.
4 <http://www.pch.gc.ca/progs/cpsc-ccsp/sc-cs/index_e.cfm> (June 27, 2005).
5 See also The Department of Canadian Heritage, Symbols of Canada, Ottawa, Ont.: Canadian Government Publishing, 2002, 2 and 10.
6 <http://www.pch.gc.ca/progs/cpsc-ccsp/sc-cs/df1_e.cfm> (June 27, 2005).
7 I use the term ‘traditional’ to indicate that since then further theories such as the concept of a ‘postmodernist irony’ have emerged. See Linda Hutcheon, Splitting Images. Contemporary Canadian Ironies, Toronto: OUP, 1991.
8 Margaret ATWOOD, Survival. A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, Toronto: Anansi, 1972, 32. Atwood continues: “Our stories are likely to be tales not of those who made it but of those who made it back, from an awful experience—the North, the snowstorm, the sinking ship—that killed everyone else. The survivor has no triumph or victory but the fact of his survival; he has little after his ordeal that he did not have before, except gratitude for having escaped with his life. A preoccupation with one’s survival is necessarily also a preoccupation with the obstacles to that survival. In earlier writers the obstacles are external—the land, the climate, and so forth. In later writers the obstacles tend to become both harder to identify and more internal; they are no longer obstacles to physical survival but obstacles to what we may call spiritual survival, to life as anything more than a minimally human being.” Ibid., 33.
9 Shannon HENGEN, “ATWOOD, Margaret Eleanor,” in William H. New, Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada, Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press, 2002, 50-51. Wolfram R. Keller emphasizes the role of literature for negotiating identity: “For Canadians, national identity remains a fiercely debated theoretical area of investigation. Postcolonial accounts of post-nationalism propounding a stronger sense of regionalism compete with more conservative arguments in favour of the nation-state. Ever since Margaret Atwood’s seminal work on the difficulties of being a Canadian in the light of a powerful Southern neighbour, it has clearly evolved that literature is one of the cultural assets largely safeguarding Canadian identity.” Wolfram R. Keller, “Of Imagined Nations, Imperial Duplicity, and the Canada to Come: A Conversation with David Williams,” Ahornblätter, 15, 2002, 35.
10 Northrop FRYE, The Bush Garden. Essays on Canadian Imagination, Concord: Anansi, 1995, 166. But Frye also puts emphasis on the regional identities in Canada which derive from environmental influences: “[...] the question of Canadian identity, so far as it affects the creative imagination, is not a ‘Canadian’ question at all, but a regional question. An environment turned outward to the sea, like so much of Newfoundland, and one turned towards inland seas, like so much of the Maritimes, are an imaginative contrast: anyone who has been conditioned by one in his earliest years can hardly become conditioned by the other in the same way. Anyone brought up on the urban plain of southern Ontario or the gentle pays farmland along the south shore of the St. Lawrence may become fascinated by the great sprawling wilderness of Northern Ontario or Ungava, may move there and live with its people and become accepted as one of them, but if he paints or writes about it he will paint or write as an imaginative foreigner.” Ibid., xxii.
11 Northrop Frye, op. cit., 227-228. In her foreword to The Bush Garden Linda Hutcheon writes about the garrison mentality: “The specific reasons for controversy are inevitably going to be different today, but Frye’s provocative vision of the Canadian imagination—mentally garrisoned against a terrifying nature, frostbitten by a colonial history—is a vision that still has the power to provoke, just as the judgements he made about individual writers and artists in his reviews still have the power to irritate and delight.” Linda Hutcheon, “The Field Notes of a Public Critic,” in Northrop Frye, The Bush Garden. Essays on Canadian Imagination, Concord: Anansi, 1995, viii-ix.
12The Department of Canadian Heritage, op. cit., 2.
13 The marginalized minority voices have been emerging since the 1960s. In Barbara Godard’s opinion the “dominant group has framed the grounds for discussion of a ‘national literature.’ Definitions of Canadian literature have developed on a binary model—English-Canadian/Quebec relations, mirroring the official bilingual policy of the country. This has precluded the discussion of writing by ethnic writers. In the last few years, with a special literary issue of Canadian Ethnic Studies (1982) and the publication of the conference on ‘Language, Culture and Identity’ in Canadian Literature (1987), these silenced voices are making themselves heard in the mosaic. The ‘inappropriate/d other’ is necessitating a new definition of Canadian literature with revised boundary alignments, different cuts and exclusions, new understandings of inside/outside.” Barbara GODARD, “The Discourse of the Other: Canadian Literature and the Question of Ethnicity,” The Massachusetts Review, 31/1-2, 1990, 153.
14 Arun P. Mukherjee, Postcolonialism: My Living, Toronto: TSAR, 1998, 72-73.
15 Cf. Laura MOSS (Ed.), Is Canada Postcolonial? Unsettling Canadian Literature, Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2003.
16 Cf. Bill ASHCROFT, Gareth GRIFFITHS and Helen TIFFIN, The Empire Writes Back. Theory and practice in post-colonial literatures, London/New York: Routledge, 1989.
17 Arun P. MUKHERJEE, op. cit., 8-9.
18 Smaro KAMBOURELI (Ed.), Making a Difference. Canadian Multicultural Literature, Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1996, 10. In an interview with Wolfram R. Keller, David Williams states: “For Canadians, national identity remains a fiercely debated theoretical area of investigation. Postcolonial accounts of post-nationalism propounding a stronger sense of regionalism compete with more conservative arguments in favour of the nation-state. Ever since Margaret Atwood’s seminal work on the difficulties of being a Canadian in the light of a powerful Southern neighbour, it has clearly evolved that literature is one of the cultural assets largely safeguarding Canadian identity.” Wolfram R. Keller, “Of Imagined Nations, Imperial Duplicity, and the Canada to Come: A Conversation with David Williams,” Ahornblätter, 15, 2002, 35.
19 Sometimes, the heterogeneity of Canadian society is expressed in the terms ‘salad bowl’ and ‘cultural mosaic’—in contrast to the US-American ‘melting pot’ (although this concept has proved to be not adequate to define American society).
20 Linda HUTCHEON, “Rudy Wiebe: Interview by Linda Hutcheon,” in Linda HUTCHEON and Marion RICHMOND (Eds.), Other Solitudes. Canadian Multicultural Fictions, Toronto: Oxford UP, 1990, 80.
21 Instead of searching a national identity it might be more reasonable to talk about cultural identities in the EFL classroom as they are easier to define. Patrick Colm Hogan states: “Indeed, cultural identity is broader even than politics—art and education and personal affinities are pervaded by its incarnations: racial identity, ethnic identity, religious identity, national identity. Feelings of a communal self, based in a real or imagined history of shared practices and beliefs [...]. In short, cultural identity is at the center not only of politics, but of daily life as well.” Patrick Colm HOGAN, Colonialism and Cultural Identity. Crises of Tradition in the Anglophone Literatures of India, Africa, and the Caribbean, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000, xi. Ross Poole says about the construction of cultural identities: “A good number of recent case studies illustrate how cultural identities, as other social representations, are socially produced and not passively inherited legacies. Representations of identities are continuously produced by individual and collective social actors who constitute and transform themselves through both the symbolic practices, and their relations (alliance, competition, struggle, negotiation, etc.) with other social actors.” Ross POOLE, “National Identity and Citizenship,” in Linda Martín ALCOFF and Eduardo MENDIETA (Eds.), Identities. Race, Class, Gender, and Nationality, Malden: Blackwell, 2003, 284.
22 Peter Doyé, The Intercultural Dimension. Foreign Language Education in the Primary School, Berlin: Cornelsen, 1999, 21.
23 <http://www.education-canada.de/index-english.html> (July 20, 2005).
24English in Action 4H, München: Langenscheidt-Longman, 1982, 94.
26 According to Milner and Browitt the term ‘multiculturalism’is defined as “the extension and institutionalisation of (primarily ‘ethnic’) cultural diversity into the nation-state, through such avenues as the legal system, the education system, government policy towards health and housing, and respect for culture-specific linguistic, communal and religious practices and customs.” Andrew MILNER and Jeff BROWITT, Contemporary Cultural Theory. An Introduction, London and New York: Routledge, 2002, 235.
27 Peter DOYÉ, op. cit., 31.
28 Magdalena TELUS, “The ‘we’ vs ‘they’ opposition,” Internationale Schulbuchforschung, 19/2, 1997, 137-138.
29 Here, this argument only refers to the photograph on page 18. The whole book is a collection of short stories which provide a more detailed insight into the country and its society. Cf. Reingard M. Nischik (Ed.), American and Canadian Short Stories, Paderborn: Schöningh, 1994.
30 Sylvia Söderlind, “Identity and Metamorphosis in Canadian Fiction Since the Sixties,” in Britta Olinder (Ed.), A Sense of Place. Essays in Post-colonial Literatures, Göteborg: Gothenburg University, 78.
31 Robert PARR, America: People and Places, München: TR-Verlagsunion, 2000, 151.
32 Multiculturalism is often viewed from the tourist perspective: “The term ‘multiculturalism’ is often understood in the most banal of senses, as the availability of different ‘ethnic’ foods, music, art and literature in the one society.” Andrew MILNER and Jeff BROWITT, op. cit., 142.
33 Eberhard GAST (Ed.), Summit. Grund- und Leistungskurs Englisch, Paderborn: Schöningh, 1997, 236.
40 Peter KLAUS (Ed.), Canadian Mosaic—Mosaïque canadienne, Berlin: Cornelsen, 1993, 50.
43 Eberhard GAST (Ed.), op. cit., 239.
45 Kurt OSER (Ed.), Canada, Perspectives 9, Stuttgart: Klett, 1989, 31.