Courtesy Reuters

Canada's Split Personality

THE Australian -- he was a professor of International Law -- said he was sorry for us Canadians. "You are so busy," he said, "proving to the English that you are not Yankees, and proving to the Yankees that you are not English, you have no time to be yourselves at all." Since he had just come from an Institute of Pacific Relations conference, it was easy to understand the Australian's sorrow. He went on to speak of the Statute of Westminster.

The Statute of Westminster is a document highly regarded by "representative" Canadians who attend conferences. It was made law at Westminster in 1931 and ratified by all Dominion Parliaments. It embodies the Declaration of the Imperial Conference of 1926 that the nations associated in the British Commonwealth are "self-governing communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate . . ." and so on. It was of no importance, the Australian said. It was merely a legal phrasing of accepted constitutional practice, a not-too-successful effort to embalm living usage in a formula. Its chief use was to soothe Canadians. It was the ring Canada required so that she might show it to the neighbors and prove that she was an honest woman. Australia and New Zealand, being quite certain they were honest women, felt no need of a ring to show. But Canada and, to a lesser extent, South Africa, set store by such emblems of respectability. Why?

The percentage of formalists is high among Canadians currently recognized as representative, and insistence on Canada's national sovereignty is one of their peculiarities. The circumstance is regrettable for it has created a sort of embarrassment between ordinary Canadians and other average citizens of other countries. We think we are reasonably adult, as inmates of this world go, yet we find ourselves treated in international company like touchy adolescents. This is the work of the representative Canadians, done from the highest motives.

The obsession with status that has shaped Canada's external relations for twenty

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