Canada’s natural beauty: We should focus on our own challenges, such as environmental threats, and not try so hard to impress the rest of the world.
This Canada Day is a decisive one. It may be the last one for a sitting prime minster and his government (or, it may not!). But at least we don’t have a Brexit or a Donald Trump to contend with. Or a Narendra Modi or a Xi Jinping, for that matter. No matter who wins, Canada is not heading back into the dark ages anytime soon. That’s a lot to be thankful for this Canada Day.Despite this, Canada still seems to be preoccupied with finding its “place in the world” and hoping the world will look upon it favourably.Every country wants that, of course. Except that Canada has already found its place among nations. It is, despite recent setbacks both globally and locally, a progressive, wealthy, (mostly) open society, which is, by and large, protecting itself well from future economic and social shocks. We stand in the top 10 of many enviable lists: the happiest and safest countries, the most livable cities, the best higher education market, etc.We have, thankfully, never gone to war one-on-one with any nation and have largely been a success in multiculturalism and integration. There have been grey areas where we have not excelled, Indigenous relations being a major one. But our approach represents qualities other countries would die for, given the chaos the world faces today. Take it from a first-hand observer of ongoing chaos.And it is primarily because Canada has been a global back-bencher that we have managed to sustain them.Yet it is exactly this perception – that we are a smaller player – that Canada has so desperately been trying to change, and which may land us in hot water. The innate desire to be bigger, better and more prominent globally is more of a threat to our society than populism or violent extremism.It is exactly this perception – that we are a smaller player – that Canada has so desperately been trying to change, and which may land us in hot water.The global debates (to put mildly) that Canada has been miring itself in over the last decade – immigration, religion, oil, arms, trade (the new world wars, so to speak) – are what could ultimately mar our near-pristine reputation.These are the new criteria that matter now in the global race for power. But instead of blundering into a bigger conflict with China or Iran (via our relationship with the United States), or trading in arms with Saudi Arabia and becoming a proxy to carnage in Yemen as a result, Canada should distance itself from these catastrophes-in-the-making and focus inwards, on our own challenges. That doesn’t mean raising a blind eye to such abuses, but rather to avoid being complicit in them.As to our own challenges: We have always been a nation that has prided itself on multiculturalism. But now we see debates opening up on Islamophobia and xenophobia, not resolving conundrums but creating new ones.We have always been home to some of the world’s most magnificent natural landscapes. But now many in Canada could destroy them, debating the merits of pipelines versus climate change.We have always been the bastions of global peacekeeping and have assiduously avoided conflict. Now we veer precariously toward becoming part of several, because of our desire to “stay relevant.”We have always been cognizant that we do not have much to trade, aside from resources, because of our harsh climate. But now we want the upper hand in uneven trade partnerships, knowing that we are limited in the actions we can take.Canada has always been a country that has flourished more when it stood silently in the shadows and just went about being itself. That’s why it attracted the world. Granted, one cannot always remain in the shadows; sometimes one has to fight for a seat at the table. But we must pick those tables meticulously.This Canada Day, and as we head into election season, perhaps we can keep that in mind, be grateful for what we have and not risk losing it over something as outdated as trying to become a superpower.Happy Canada Day.Themrise Khan is an independent professional and lecturer specializing in global migration, social policy and international development. She blogs at www.lamehdood.wordpress.com.