A Country Divided, A People Confused
We are not having a Constitutional crisis. The Constitution is fine. No one is threatening to separate from the country. No one is breaking Constitutional law. No one is overthrowing the state. At least not yet.
What we are having is a leadership crisis. Unfortunately, leadership is not something we can fix through legislation or Constitutional reform. It requires nurturing, belief and luck. And since we have not been very good at nurturing new leaders to take us into the new millennium, we will have to resort to blind faith and rolling the dice.
But this isn’t the only problem that confronts us. Over the past few days two things have become evident about the people of Canada, and neither of them are pretty. For one, it has become clear that we live in a nation divided. While the usual rhetoric of Quebec separatism has been thrust into the spotlight once again, it is not a French-English divide that is now tearing at the fabric of the Canadian identity. The new dividing line can now be found somewhere within the bounds of Manitoba. The East-West divide is not one based on language, but rather…something else. Being from the east, I cannot really say what the western perspective is, but I do know that when I am in Alberta I have a distinct feeling that those around me do not share my assumptions about how life works.
It has also become clear that Canadians are confused. Try as we might to blame the politicians for this, the confusion is no one’s fault but our own. The level of interest and engagement by most Canadians in our political process has become so low as to risk the very foundations of our democracy. People do not understand the difference between the Canadian and American forms of government. People do not understand the difference between politicians and the public service. People do not understand the difference between voting and democracy. These are very important concepts that hold together the notion that is Canada. Without a common understanding of what they mean and how they bind us together, Canada becomes nothing more than a bunch of individuals living in general proximity to each other.
Is Canada on the verge of collapse? Not a chance. But we are on the verge of opening up a heated and controversial debate over the role of government in our lives and the virtues of remaining a country united. We owe it to ourselves to become informed so we can have an informed debate. We owe it to ourselves to empathize with our fellow citizens, so they can have empathy for us. We owe it to ourselves to become leaders in our own right.