1.16 Contending Nationalist and Non-nationalist Loyalties in Canada

Should nation be the foundation of identity?

Big Idea:

  • Reconciling contending nationalist and non-nationalist loyalties in Canada is a challenge.

The Multination State of Canada

In many Canadian communities, you might

  • see people from various cultural and ethnic groups that make up the human mosaic of Canadian society

  • watch or listen to Canadian television or radio programs that represent various cultural or ethnic groups, and

  • eat at restaurants offering menu items from various cultural and ethnic groups

All these signs reinforce the idea that Canada is a multination state.

But, what is a "multination state"? "Multination" means "many nations". A multination state is a sovereign state made up of two or more nations. Remember, "nation" means the group to which one belongs, which could be based on ethnicity, language, political ideology, etc. Canada is a multination state. For the most part, the various groups within Canada have lived peacefully with one another. That is not to say, however, that some issues of concern never arise. With the many contending nationalist and non-nationalist loyalties that exist in Canada, there is bound to be some conflict.

Learn about some perspectives of contending nationalist and non-nationalist loyalties in Canada by exploring the tabs below, which contain content from the Understanding Nationalism textbook and related websites.

Go to your textbook, Understanding Nationalism, and read pages 89 to 95. These pages will further your understanding of how individuals address contending nationalist and non-nationalist loyalties.

Take notes using the 1.16 Notebook Organizer (Word, PDF, Google Doc) about what you have read. You may want to refer to the tutorial How to Take Notes. When you are done, return here to continue.

According to the 2016 Statistics Canada census, over 16 million Aboriginal peoples live in Canada. Despite their large population, Canada’s Aboriginal peoples have long felt alienated (apart or separated) from other Canadians. Many factors have contributed to the Aboriginal people's alienation, such as
  • racism,
  • little say in political decisions concerning them (relations between the Canadian federal government and First Nations people have often been one-sided. This is because the government has usually made decisions for Aboriginals without consulting with the Aboriginal people first.),
  • disputed treaty rights and land claims,
  • terrible living conditions while under the control of the federal government (poor housing, healthcare, education, and low incomes on many reserves, while being largely ignored by the rest of Canada), and
  • the loss of Aboriginal identity:
    • not being accepted in non-Aboriginal communities
    • living in poverty on isolated reserves .
This loss of identity resulted in many Aboriginals growing up without a sense of who they were as a people. In addition, residential schools were an attempt by the Canadian government to assimilate or "mix" First Nations children into non-Aboriginal society. The attempt failed on many fronts, but one of the failures was that children educated in residential schools lost their culture and identity, and were not accepted any better into non-Aboriginal society.

Go to CBC's Digital Archives "A Lost Heritage: Canada's Residential Schools" site and watch this video about Canadian Residential Schools. For the most part, Canada's residential school system had negative effects on the Aboriginal peoples. Feel free to view the other videos on the site to further enrich your understanding.

Many Aboriginal peoples have tried to reclaim their identities by prioritizing nationalist loyalties to First Nations, rather than to Canada.
  • First Nations equality: seeking equality rights protection in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • First Nations land claims and treaty rights: challenging disputed treaty rights and land claims in the courts by either protest demonstrations or blockades (sometimes peacefully, and sometimes not)
  • First Nations independence: seeking self-government on their own lands but within the nation of Canada

Over the years, many Aboriginal people have been, and continue to be, proud to show their nationalist loyalty to Canada by joining the Canadian military and fighting overseas. The CBC’s Aboriginals and the Canadian Military illustrates Aboriginal patriotism to Canada. However, even with their extensive involvement in the world wars, First Nations war heroes typically came home to Canada with no right to vote or own land.

Go to your textbook, Understanding Nationalism, read pages 80 to 81, and take notes using the 1.16 Notebook Organizer. Include what you've read and viewed in 1.16.1. These pages will help you to further understand contending Canadian Aboriginal nationalist and non-nationalist loyalties.

The Québécois have a long history of concern for the survival of French culture in Quebec. Living in a country that is mostly English-speaking has created feelings of alienation, especially because the rest of Canada has not shown much interest in whether or not Quebec preserves its French language and culture. There have been several moments in the past when Canada has actually attempted to assimilate the Québécois into English culture.

As a result, Québécois nationalism for French culture in Quebec has conflicted with nationalism for Canada since Confederation.
View perspectives of Québécois nationalism in the video below.

Go to your textbook, Understanding Nationalism, read pages 74 to 76, and take notes using the 1.16 Notebook Organizer. Include what you've read and viewed in 1.16.2. These pages will help you to further understand contending Québécois nationalist and non-nationalist loyalties.

© Pixabay
Speaking to youths at a conference in Oslo in 2009, her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, stated,

"Unprecedented levels of international migration, the Internet, and globalization, are challenging us all to revisit the ways in which we understand and relate to each other both as citizens of a given country and as citizens of the world. Diversity is a fundamental fact of modernity. Diversity is here to stay."

In 2005, Michaëlle Jean was Canada's first black woman Governor General.
Ms Jean had immigrated to Canada in 1968 from her homeland of Haiti, fleeing with her family from the dictatorial regime under François Duvalier. In the same speech, she said:

"We are all living proof that as we speak, peoples are mingling, social practices are being transformed, and cultures are becoming richer and more complex than ever before. The historic blending of many different Aboriginal nations, French and British settlers, African slaves, and subsequent waves of immigrants from all corners of the globe have led to the creation of a society that celebrates its diversity with pride while encouraging its citizens to come together, to unite, around the core values of equality, freedom, mutual respect, justice and democracy."

The former Governor General's speech highlights the need for all peoples in Canada
to celebrate cultural and ethnic differences, while moving toward unity through actions that reach beyond a focus on skin colour or first language. Statistics Canada has projected that by 2031, nearly 46% of Canadians will have been born in a country other than Canada. The increasingly diverse nature of Canada's people can present challenges when one set of loyalties come into conflict with another.

The former Governor General's main message was that Canada must be united in common values and work toward an inclusive society.

Go to your textbook, Understanding Nationalism, read pages 70 to 71, and take notes using the 1.16 Notebook Organizer. Include what you've read and viewed in 1.16.3. These pages will help you to further understand contending cultural and ethnic nationalist and non-nationalist loyalties.