Canadian nationalism

Canadian nationalism is a term which has been applied to ideologies of several different types which highlight and promote specifically Canadian interests over those of other countries, notably the United States. It has also been applied to movements promoting pride in the nation, race, culture, heritage, general values or traditions of Canada, though there is usually a distinction drawn between Canadian nationalism and more general patriotism.

In general, Canadian nationalists are highly concerned about the protection of Canadian sovereignty and loyalty to the Canadian state, placing them in the civic nationalist category. It has likewise often been suggested that anti-Americanism, or at least hostility towards the United States, often plays a prominent role in Canadian nationalist ideologies. When nationalists speak of "independence", it is widely understood that the actual meaning is "independence from the United States". Canadian nationalists may in fact promote stronger ties to other nations, and encourage closer integration with the European Union or the United Nations as a way of offsetting US influences.

One of Canada's most aggressive nationalist leaders, former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, once explained his views to the New York Times by expressing "I am not anti-American. But I am strongly pro-Canadian."


The goal of all economic and political nationalists has been the creation and then maintenance of Canadian sovereignty. During Canada's colonial past there were various movements in both Upper Canada (present day Ontario) and Lower Canada (present day Quebec) to achieve independence from the British Empire. These culminated in the failed Rebellions of 1837. Afterwards Canadian patriots began focusing on self government and political reform within the British Empire. This was a cause championed by early Liberals such as the Reform Party (pre-Confederation) and the Clear Grits. While Canada's early Conservatives, supported by loyalist institutions and big business supported stronger links to Britain. Following the achievement of constitutional independence in 1867 (Confederation) both of Canada's main parties followed separate nationalistic themes. The early Liberal Party of Canada generally favoured greater diplomatic and military independence from the British Empire while the early Conservative Party of Canada fought for economic independence from the United States.

Starting before Confederation in 1867 the debate between free trade and protectionism was a defining issue in Canadian politics. Nationalists, along with British loyalists were opposed to the idea of free trade or reciprocity for fear of having to compete with American industry and losing sovereignty to the United States. This issue dominated Canadian politics during the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the Tories taking a populist, anti-free trade stance. Conservative leader, Sir John A. Macdonald advocated an agenda of economic nationalism known as the National Policy which was very popular in the industrialized Canadian east. While the Liberal Party of Canada took a more classical liberal approach and supported the idea of an "open market" with the United States, something feared in eastern Canada but popular with farmers in western Canada [] . The National Policy also included plans to expand Canadian territory into the western prairies and populate the west with immigrants.

In each "free trade election", the Liberals were defeated, forcing them to give up on the idea. The issue was revisited in the 1980s when the issue was resurrected by Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Mulroney reversed his party's protectionist tradition, and, after claiming to be against free trade during his leadership campaign in 1983, went forward with negotiations for a free trade agreement with the United States. His government believed that this would cure Canada's ills and unemployment, which had been caused by a growing deficit and a terrible economic recession during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The agreement was drawn up in 1987 and an election was held on the issue in 1988. The Liberals, in a reversal of their traditional role, campaigned against free trade under former Prime Minister John Turner. The Tories won the election with a large majority, partially due to Mulroney's support in Quebec among Quebec nationalists to whom he promised "distinct society" status for their province.

After the election of 1988, opponents of free trade pointed to the fact that the PC Party of Brian Mulroney received a majority of seats in parliament with only 43% of the vote while together the Liberal Party and New Democratic Party both of whom opposed the agreement received 51% of the vote. Showing opposition from a clear majority of the population.

Another early source of pan-Canadian nationalism came from Quebec in the early 20th century. Henri Bourassa, Mayor of Montebello and one-time Liberal Member of Parliament created the Canadian Nationalist League (Ligue nationaliste canadienne) supporting an independent role for Canada in foreign affairs opposed to both British and American imperialism [] . Bourassa also supported Canadian economic autonomy. Bourassa was instrumental in defeating Sir Wilfrid Laurier in the federal election of 1911 over the issue of a Canadian Navy controlled by the British Empire, something he furiously opposed. Ironically he aided the Conservative Party of Sir Robert Borden in that election, a party with strong British imperialist sympathies [] .

In the federal election of 1917 he was also instrumental in opposing the Borden government's plan for conscription and as a result assisted the Laurier Liberals in Quebec. His vision of a unified, bi-cultural, tolerant and sovereign Canada remains an ideological inspiration to many Canadian nationalists. Alternatively his French Canadian nationalism and support for maintaining French Canadian culture would inspire Quebec nationalists many of whom were supporters of the Quebec sovereignty movement.

Modern attempts at forming a popular Canadian nationalist party have failed. The National Party of Canada was the most successful of recent attempts, led by former publisher Mel Hurtig the Nationals received more than 183, 000 votes or 1.38% of the popular vote in 1993. Infighting however led to the party's demise shortly afterwards, this was followed by the formation of the Canadian Action Party in 1997. Created by a former Liberal Minister of Defence, Paul Hellyer, the CAP has failed to attract significant attention from the electorate since that time. An organic farmer and nationalist activist from Saskatchewan named David Orchard attempted to bring a nationalist agenda to the forefront of the former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. In spite of attracting thousands of new members to a declining party he was unsuccessful in taking over the leadership and preventing the merger with the former Canadian Alliance [] [] .

At present and for most of the late 20th century, the centre-left, social democratic, New Democratic Party (NDP) has by far been the most popular voice of Canadian nationalist viewpoints.

Various activist/lobby groups such as the Council of Canadians, along with other progressive, environmentalist and labour groups have campaigned tirelessly against attempts to integrate the Canadian economy and harmonize government policies with that of the United States. They point to threats allegedly posed to Canada's environment, natural resources, social programs, the rights of Canadian workers and cultural institutions. These echo the concerns of a large segment of the Canadian population. The nationalist Council of Canadians took an a role of leadership in protesting discussions on the Security and Prosperity Partnership and earlier talks between previous Canadian and U.S. governments on "deep integration".

Criticism of Canadian nationalism

"Canadian nationalism," as it is widely understood today, is not synonymous with Canadian patriotism. Canadian nationalists will often argue that anyone who disagrees with their agenda is a "bad Canadian" or a "sell-out," a tactic which has earned them many critics. The Council of Canadians, for example, which bills itself as one of Canada's leading nationalist organizations, has always been extremely critical of right-wing (and centre-right) politicians and parties who support integration with the United States. Their most common targets have included former Prime Minster Brian Mulroney, current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Stéphane Dion, Preston Manning, Stockwell Day, the Canadian Alliance, the Conservative Party of Canada, amongst other conservative movements and individuals. In particular, the council routinely characterizes Canadian "neoconservatives" as being the individuals most responsible for destroying Canadian sovereignty from within. Conservative critics will thus often characterize modern Canadian nationalism as being a primarily leftist movement, allied too heavily with the Canadian labour movement and New Democratic Party.

There is also a political faction on the Left critical of what they call "left nationalism", arguing that it is a mistake to combine left politics with nationalism. Political currents which oppose left nationalism include the International Socialists, the New Socialist Group, Socialist Action and Socialist Voice. However these organizations are marginal in terms of membership when compared to Canadian organizations of the Left that choose to embrace nationalism (such as the Council of Canadians and Canadian Labour Congress). Marxist theoreticians who have written critiques of left nationalism include William Carroll, David McNally, Paul Kellogg, Steve Moore and Debi Wells. In 2003, the debate took written form in the pages of Canadian Dimension and on a web-based publication

List of self-identified nationalist groups in Canada

Left-wing and centre-left, economic/political and cultural nationalist groups

* The Waffle - the former left wing of the New Democratic Party, purged by former leader David Lewis in the 1970s.
* Ginger Group
* New Politics Initiative
* Canadian Action Party
* Vive le Canada
* Canadian National Federation
* Council of Canadians
* Committee for an Independent Canada
* National Party of Canada - now defunct party led by nationalist activist and author, Mel Hurtig

Far right groups

* Heritage Front
* Canadian Heritage Alliance
* Nationalist Party of Canada
* Canadian National Front
* Canada First Immigration Reform Committee or simply Canada First
* Canada First - historical secret society, now defunct
* Confederation of Regions Party - an English Canadian, ethnic nationalist party, now defunct.
*Ontario Confederation of Regions Party - a registered party supportive of ethnic English Canadian nationalism, and completely opposed to multiculturalism and bilingualism.

Canadian government departments in charge of cultural nationalism

* Department of Canadian Heritage -
* Heritage Canada Foundation
* Canada Council for the Arts

Canadian nationalist leaders

*Pierre Trudeau
*William Lyon Mackenzie
*Louis Joseph Papineau
*Sir John A. Macdonald
*Sir George-Étienne Cartier
*Henri Bourassa
*John Diefenbaker
*James Laxer
*David Orchard
*Maude Barlow
*Mel Hurtig

ee also

*Bibliography of Canadian nationalism
*Politics of Canada
*Quebec nationalism
*Canadian cultural protectionism
*Canadian identity
*Canadian Multiculturalism
*Lament for a Nation

External links to economic nationalist parties/organizations

* [ Council of Canadians]
* [ David Orchard Campaign for Canada]
* [ Canadian Action Party]
* [ New Democratic Party]

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