Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Canada and Canadians do not exist: the Belgium example

From Richard Gwyn writing in the Toronto Star.

Separatist movements less ominous

Oct 09, 2007 04:30 AM

Richard Gwyn

Belgium doesn't exactly rate as one of the world's most troubled countries.

As nation-states go, though, Belgium does have one considerable handicap: it doesn't exist. It's still there on the map, all right, filling up the same, rough oblong that it has since 1830. It has an impressive capital – Brussels – which is also the capital of the European Union.

But all of that is fiction. In fact, Belgium is a "Potemkin village" of a nation-state, a pretend one. What actually exists is two nation-states – French-speaking Walloonia and Dutch-speaking (technically, Flemish-speaking) Flanders. There's also a small German-speaking minority.

Recently, a leading Belgian politician, Filip Dewinter, commented: "There's no Belgian sentiment. There's no Belgian language. There's no Belgian nation. There's no Belgian anything".

On this topic, Dewinter is a suspect witness. He's the leader of the ultra-nationalist Flemish party, Vlaams Belang. This time, though, Dewinter is right. No one can come up with a list of things in Belgium that are actually Belgian other than beer, the national soccer team and the king, 73-year-old Albert II.

Moreover, Belgium's Belgian-ness keeps diminishing. A poll last month found that 66 per cent of Flemings regard separation as inevitable. Since elections last June, the country has had no national government because the 11 ethnic and regional parties cannot agree on anything. It's almost certain that Belgium will vanish from the map sooner or later.

Read it all here.

Sound familiar? That’s because we as Canadians have heard this before. We have been told, oftentimes by immigrants themselves, that Canada and Canadians have no cultural identity yet I can think of more things that are uniquely Canadian than the Belgians can think of as Belgian. When I think of Canada I think of hockey, maple syrup, canoes, the Mounties, the Group of Seven, a vast and diverse natural landscape, and the stereotypical use of the word “eh” of which I am guilty. And yes, even snow. Because it snows here, and for too long I might add, we have to modify our behaviour to adapt to it and therefore our actions help define us. If this sounds silly then try to think of other countries where the weather is one of the first things that come to your mind. If you find yourself listing all tropical countries remember you only think of those countries in the dead of January. We have truly accomplished a lot considering the modest size of our population and relatively short history. How many other countries can say that they have developed a sport that is uniquely their own and played internationally?

The things I listed just off the top of my head are typically what most people in the world think of when they imagine Canada. They don’t think of turbans and saris or kirpans, curry, bangra music, or Bollywood films. They don’t think of hijabs and mosques, soccer or pasta, stone temples and Shiva, or Latino music and tea in the afternoon. The reason is simple: those are not defining characteristics of Canada. To be blunt, they are not Canadian. However there are some here who want to change that. They want to make turbans, reggae music, saris, and hijabs as Canadian as maple syrup and hockey and multiculturalism and mass immigration are the tools being employed to achieve that.

What they argue then is that the Canadian doesn’t really exist. To acknowledge the existence of a Canadian is to acknowledge that a uniquely Canadian identity exists. Therefore there are people who are Canadian and people who are not even though they all reside within Canada. This runs counter to a multicultural social model that says everyone is Canadian no matter how you dress or act. But if a Canadian identity does exist then those who do not fit within it will not be seen as Canadian. Therefore the Canadian identity must be erased or unacknowledged to favour a multicultural one. In a multicultural model the Canadian does not exist. Everyone is reduced to the sum of their ancestry. No one is ever really a Canadian. We are a nation of immigrants after all.

Canada is to become like Belgium: a multiethnic state that has difficulty defining itself because its multiethnic character prevents itself from doing so. Canada already has regional and ethnic divisions (by which I mean the French and English divide as well as the First Nations people). This will be exacerbated by mass immigration as ethnic minority groups start to constitute the majority in parts of Canada. As they do so they will organize ethnically specific political parties to press their demands on the rest of the nation. That is if they have not co-opted Canada’s existing political parties to meet their demands. If you find this preposterous then I hope you realize that an ethnically specific Chinese political party was launched this year in B.C. Called the Nation Alliance Party it hopes to run candidates at the Federal and Provincial levels across Canada. Is a Canadian Islamic party unforeseeable? How about a Sikh one? One Bloc Quebecois is one too many. In some electoral ridings you either vote with the large ethnic community or you don’t vote at all. Some riding associations are dominated by one ethnic group who nominate and elect members from their own ethnic communities to represent the riding.

Canada’s current immigration policy and the officially sanctioned multicultural social model will doom Canada to become like Belgium of today complete with competing ethnic divisions (not just French and English), a confused national character, and a populace where 66% believe separation along ethnic lines is inevitable. Is Canada to be carved up along English, French, Chinese, and South Asian lines? I love my country to much to sit back and let that happen. That’s why I started this blog.

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