Courtesy Reuters

Canada in Search of its Role

Canadians like to remind their more turbulent friends that they have grown by evolution rather than revolution. In the language of the country, therefore, the present might be described as a pre-evolutionary phase. The change of Government from Conservative to Liberal in April may usher in changes, but politics are only the surface manifestation of a crisis which involves the whole fabric of national life. For several years there has been an intense examination of Canada's economic, constitutional and cultural foundations, conducted in a charged political atmosphere, by no means entirely rational, but a grand debate nevertheless. Canadians have been staring with less blinking than usual at the harder facts, even asking themselves whether the continued existence of the country is justified. They have been stung by criticism from abroad which reached beyond the acts of the Government to question Canadian institutions and traditions- criticism which was unqualified by the benevolent indulgence to which nicely behaved lesser powers have become accustomed. Canada has perhaps suffered too long from the illusion that it is a young country with the license of youth in world affairs, and its course may be firmer as Canadians realize that they are not only middle-powered but middle-aged. The sobriety which has followed a tumultuous election, with the world for the first time looking on, is a mood in which fundamental changes can be accepted. On the eve of the hundredth anniversary of confederation, Canadians in anguish have been discovering its worth and seem disposed to meet present challenges with restored faith-if only they and their leaders can work out some answers.

At issue are: the viability of Canada in the modern age; its role in the world; the unity of the federation; and the national identity of the Canadian people. The relationship with the United States is a factor in all of this, but it is a distortion to see in the Canadian debate a contest between pro- and anti-American forces.

The economic malaise is fundamental because,

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