• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Canada: A Good Place to Live

It’s Canada Day up here, and we’re all busy (once we’ve enjoyed a good sleep-in) doing what Canadians do to celebrate our country, which is . . .

. . . well, nothing too extravagant, that’s for sure. We’re a mild bunch of folk, and we have been from the beginning. Indeed, my own take on Confederation (the occasion of Canada’s original four British colonies getting together to form a country in 1867) is that it was basically a good business deal: (1) it let Britain off the hook, no longer running colonies that, since the fish and fur were no longer so vital, didn’t pay to run any more; (2) it kept the predatory Americans out (since they had invaded us twice by this point: in the Revolutionary War and in the War of 1812—unsuccessfully both times); and (3) it established an economic and political arrangement to help everyone make a living in this cold, beautiful, resource-rich, and demanding land.

No national myth, therefore. No messianic mission to the rest of the world. Just well-being, stability, and justice—or, as our own founding document put it, “peace, order and good government.”

Implicitly, to be sure, it was a Christian vision of shalom that shaped Canada. Thus our national motto “from sea to sea” is an allusion to Psalm 72:8 and the messianic (!) vision of the Lord having dominion from sea to sea.

But it’s all quite quiet. And that’s why we don’t have any odes to recite today, or tales to tell, or anthems to sing (besides “O Canada” itself—with, accommodatingly enough, quite different words, even allowing for translation, in the French and English versions of it!). It’s hard to get worked up over mere prosperity, the rule of law, the security of the person and property, a broad social safety net, a commitment to international peace and justice, a national policy of multiculturalism . . .

. . . unless you’re living in most of the other countries in the world, in which case this all looks pretty good.

So if “Canada: A Good Place to Live” sounds like a sardonic slogan, one a clever movie director would use to depict a boring suburb (or the leafy village in which mayhem is about to break loose—depending on the genre), it’s still the Canadian dream, right back to 1867. And, by Gretzky, it’s worth celebrating!

Quietly.

(P.S. If you’d like to celebrate one of the best features of Canadian culture, namely, our ability to make ourselves and others laugh, then check out this nice collection of video Canadiana. Happy Canada Day!)

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