Who We Are

Who We are: A Citizens Manifesto
By Rudyard Griffiths
Douglas & McIntyre
216 pages $29.99

whoweare(Canscene) — Rudyard Griffiths is a co-founder and former executive director of the outdatedly named Dominion Institute.
He resigned to devote his time to writing, a product of which is Who We Are, which could have also been named Who Are We?

The problem of defining Canada’s identity has been with us a long time. Griffiths makes an attempt in this book. However, for almost three quarters of the book, he tells us what he thinks is wrong with Canada and his leaders. He denigrates Parliament having declared Quebec as a nation and sneers at public fears of global warming about which he shows the same level of concern that Bush and Cheney did.

Griffiths supports continued immigration as vital to our future, but it is in this area that some of his more bizarre ideas come forward. Concerned as most of us are with improving settlement facilities for newcomers, with having them understand our systems of government, he proposes the establishment of a template for Canadian identity laying down a set of rules that would mean changing from the existing emphasis on multiculturalism to having native-born and new Canadians alike moulded into a single manufactured identity.

Rudyard Griffiths ignores the fact that the presence of Aboriginal peoples centuries before the coming of the French and English, United Empire Loyalists from a variety of countries, freed slaves, men in sheepskin coats, war brides and post World War II immigrants by the million, have created a variety of identities that make the prime target living together in harmony, which if not totally achieved is well on the way. Thus, the efforts of Canadian politicians, social workers, and volunteers to create cross-cultural understanding are forging a nation that ideally will think of Canada as home and neither a way station to another place nor a return to colonial times.

True, there are elements of the authors master plan that do need fixing: primarily the poor voting record by all Canadians in recent years, and more realistic information to potential immigrants from Canadian government officials abroad.

But Griffiths becomes most irritating in his final chapter in which he declares himself quite satisfied with a dual British Canadian citizenship due to having been born in the UK and his admiration for things British. After launching into a diatribe on the abuses of dual citizenship he fails to set an example by renouncing his own.

My own impression of Griffiths master plan is that if adopted it would mean the force feeding of immense dollops of British Canadian history so that things like the recent statutory holiday celebrating Queen Victoria, which many Canadians would like to see re-named, would remain as s tribute to an absentee ruler who aid scant attention to colonies like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This is a lukewarm attempt to ignite our sense of patriotism through an imposed agenda that is anglo oriented.


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