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Should individuals and groups in Canada embrace a national identity?

Canada is the second largest country in the world. As the images show, it is an immense country with a seemingly endless variety of landforms, climates, natural resources, and industries.

Canadian citizens come from many backgrounds with distinct cultures, different life experiences, and religions. In addition, Canadians are separated by vast distances due to the enormous size and comparatively small population of Canada. Canada considers itself a multicultural nation, but the goals of the founding nations often do not align. As such Canada is a land of diversity, which makes it a unique community, but also makes national unity difficult. Despite all this, people across Canada still consider themselves to be Canadian.

"Canadians understand that diversity is our strength. We know that Canada has succeeded—culturally, politically, economically—because of our diversity, not in spite of it."
2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's speech (full speech found here) emphasizes that Canada's diversity (many cultures) has helped the nation become strong in many areas. This implies that all Canadians, regardless of cultural background, are seen as having influence on Canada's unity.
Image © Office of the Prime Minister.
Source: Office of the Prime Minister

"What is at stake is our country. What is at stake is our heritage. To break up Canada or build Canada. To remain Canadian or no longer be Canadian. To stay or to leave...What we have built together in Canada is something very great and very noble. A country whose values of tolerance, understanding, generosity, have made us what we are: a society where our number one priority is the respect and dignity of all our citizens."
1995, Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien
Canada's Twentieth Prime Minister

In his speech, former Prime Minister Chretien was speaking to the Canadian people about his fears concerning the 1995 Quebec Referendum. In the 1980 Referendum, nearly 60% of Quebeckers voted against leaving Canada. However, in the 1995 Referendum, the increasing numbers in the polls for the "yes" side of the debate gave cause for alarm. While the final referendum numbers on October 30, 1995 were 50.6% against leaving Canada vs. 49.4% in favour of leaving Canada, the debate regarding Quebec's place in Canada and thus our nation's unity, continues.

The struggle for Canadian unity has been, and continues to be, an often difficult struggle. What are some of the conditions responsible for this struggle? Below are some factors that may divide rather than unite the people of Canada.

Geography: The incredible size of the country (second largest after Russia) makes communication with all stakeholders a challenge. Physical barriers such as distance, mountains, rivers, and lakes separate Canada into regions with differing interests and needs.

Cultural Diversity: Since the Canadian population is made of many immigrants, Canadians often downplay any unified ethnic or cultural national identity, which makes it difficult to establish unity.

Closeness to the United States: Because of our proximity to the United States, Canadians often focus more on the United States than they do on their own country. Americans have a big economic (billions of dollars in trade every year) and cultural (American fashion and media - movies, television, magazines, and Internet) influence over Canadians.


Canada is often celebrated as a land of many differences. We are a multicultural society, our geography and landscape are vast and variable, and Canada’s people come from many different contexts and backgrounds.

  • Considering all our differences, how realistic is it to have a sense of national unity?

  • Brainstorm common factors that are part of Canada’s unity with someone you know-how did your choices of common factors differ from theirs?