The Canadian Distinctiveness into the XXIst Century


336 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-7766-0551-8
DDC 971.064'8




Edited by Chad Gaffield and Karen L. Gould
Reviewed by Naomi Brun

Naomi Brun is a freelance writer and a book reviewer for The Hamilton


Does the nationhood of Canada begin with the arrival and establishment
of its indigenous peoples, or would the onset of European exploration be
a more appropriate starting point? Traditionally, we mark the birth of
the nation with Confederation on July 1, 1867. Some academics, however,
argue that Canada became a nation on April 27, 1847. On that fateful
day, our Cabinet decided not to kill the band of arsonists who burnt
down Parliament, but rather to bring the criminals to justice without
the use of violence. An important act, certainly, and one that has set
the tone for Canadian politics ever since. But should it be counted as
the first moment in our country’s history? From May 18 to May 20,
2000, Ottawa hosted delegates from around the globe to discuss such
issues. Some of our country’s brightest thinkers, from Margaret Atwood
to John Ralston Saul, delivered papers on the past, present, and future
of this nation. The collected works, with a few additions written after
the crisis of September 11, 2001, are presented in this book.

While the various contributors offer differing points of view, there
are a few unifying themes. Most contributors agree that Canada is a
nation of minorities, and for this very reason, the concept of democracy
(majority rule) doesn’t really work here. We need to find a new form
of government that embraces inclusiveness and ensures that everyone’s
voice is heard. Whether that government is sovereignty-association, an
amalgam of nation–states, or something more holistic remains to be
seen. Another common thread in this collection is the declaration of a
core set of Canadian values. We are a highly loyal people, but loyal to
the ideals of universal health care and some preservation of our
wilderness rather than to a Canadian nationalism per se. The Canadian
Distinctiveness into the XXIst Century presents our quest for an
identity in a highly intellectual way. An excellent read for any student
of political science.


“The Canadian Distinctiveness into the XXIst Century,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,