Andrew Potter is the author of On the decline: stagnation, nostalgia, and why every year is the worst.
Is the Canadian flag that flies over the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill, along with every other flag that adorns a federal institution in this country, ever going to go back to full mast? If the current prime minister of Canada has anything to do with this, the answer appears to be no. First and foremost, whatever the merits of lowering the flag, the problems it was intended to address remain unresolved, while the country’s binding symbolism is suffering untold damage.
The question of what holds together a place like Canada is difficult to answer. Some countries are bound by the force of geography, or language and ethnicity, or shared history, or a sense of collective mission. None of this applies to Canada today, if they ever did. A lot of duct tape and baling wire is holding confederation together at the best of times—and these are far from the best of times.
A 2014 Lager Marketing Survey Respondents were asked “What keeps Canada united?” Number one answer was the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, named by a quarter of respondents, followed by the health care system at 22 percent. Many of the things we are often told such as multiculturalism (9 percent), official bilingualism (4 percent) and equality (4 percent) are central to the Canada Project.
around the same time, statistics canada Decided to try to find out which programs or institutions were recognized as the most important national symbols. Once again the charter went far ahead, followed by the Canadian flag, national anthem, RCMP and hockey. Interestingly, for each national symbol named, immigrants were more likely than non-immigrants to believe that it was important to national identity.
The appearance of the charter and flag on such lists is no coincidence. If the Charter is what we all share as Canadians, whether our race or region, our language, ethnicity, gender or what have you, then the flag is one that symbolizes our collective commitment to protecting those rights and freedoms. Is. To steal a line from American philosopher Richard Rorty, the flag is a symbol of the shared Canadian project of “getting our country”.
When Justin Trudeau ordered the flags to be taken down in late June, it was in response to a very specific national shock, namely, reports of unmarked graves of hundreds of Indigenous children who died at the hands of the residential school system. Given the scope of these gruesome revelations and their proximity to July 1, it was arguably the right move to lower the flag for Canada Day that many people were no longer in the mood to celebrate.
But the flags never came back. And the longer they stayed down, the less it became about the specific setback of unmarked graves, and more about the more general continuing difficulties for Canada to treat its indigenous peoples fairly. Whenever he was asked about the flags, Mr Trudeau’s irritable response has been to say that he needed permission from indigenous leaders to raise them. But he has made no effort to determine for Canadians what the process will look like, including the leaders who will be part of the permitting body, and as progress is sufficient to allow the flag to be raised. will be counted. .
A good opportunity to start this conversation would have been 30 September, which would have been our first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. In fact, if you’re the prime minister of Canada and the flag at the Peace Tower has been half-masted for more than three months, you’d think solving it would be at the top of your agenda. Instead, as is well known, Mr Trudeau took the day off to go to the beach.
In such a situation, now the problem has become very serious. It is bad enough that Mr Trudeau allowed the Canadian flag to symbolize Canada’s historical mistreatment of its indigenous people, but now the prospect of raising them is being held hostage by the prime minister’s own indifference and indifference. This is no way to run the country.
If Canada’s collective project, if to “get our country” as the flag symbolizes, is to define first and foremost how to do what is right by Indigenous peoples, that probably isn’t a bad thing. But if so, this is a project that should not be left entirely to the whims and fantasies and political calculations of one person, especially one whose government’s policies, and his own personal behavior, consistently rank so badly on this score. kind of failed.
This power rests with the Parliament. Thankfully, the Canadians had the spirit to return a minority government to Ottawa, which means our elected representatives have the ability to control this embarrassing situation. When the House of Commons finally completes this fall, it should be the first order of business.
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