Rather than criticizing rival politicians for having lived abroad, the Conservative government should embrace the Canadian diaspora and use it to create a better country.
I write with sadness to confess I have been unfaithful to you, my home and native land. It seems I lack national sentiment, or so I have been told by your government’s most recent advertising campaigns.
Why am I anti-nationalist and unfaithful? Sporting not one but three Canadian flags lovingly stitched by my mother onto my backpack, I have abandoned you to travel and study outside your borders. I am unfaithful because, like Michael Ignatieff, I have left you to study in England. Because on Canada Day, I, alongside other Canadians working and studying overseas, unfurled my Canadian flag with pride in London’s Trafalgar Square instead of back home in Saskatchewan.
We, Canadians abroad who will again wave our flags from afar on July 1, who carry our Tim Horton’s mugs, and who search out specialty stores that sell maple syrup and Molson beer, clearly must be less patriotic than our peers who stay at home for we, like Michael Ignatieff, are now of the world: we have become “cosmopolitan.”
O[h] Canada: you are one country, but are you not cosmopolitan too? As John Ralston Saul tells us in his most recent book, you are a Metis civilization, historically formed out of aboriginals and the arrivals of newcomers over the centuries. You are composed not of one (or even three) languages or cultures but rather many. You house people of many views and experiences and professions; and you are connected to even more outside your borders. You consume coffee from Colombia, bananas from Mexico, chocolate from Switzerland and movies from Hollywood; you use computer chips from Japan, phones made in China, wear clothes made in India and shoes made in Spain.
Like it or not, Canada, you are a member of a global community: you yourself are a cosmopolitan global citizen.
You need the world beyond your borders and and that world also needs you. That means you need the Canadians living outside of your borders to cooperate with each other and with those back home. You need to appreciate the talents of all your people all the time, regardless of where they are in the world or where they have come from.
We, the immigrants from other countries who chose to come to you, we are yours. And we, who are born within your borders but leave you for a time, we remain yours. None of us are citizens of the world who come from nowhere: we are all Canadians living in one global village.
Our cosmopolitan identity doesn’t stop with our people: our national livelihood is global too. International exports account for more than 40 per cent of our GDP. International trade, especially of our commodities, is the fastest-growing area of the Canadian economy and our country relies on B.C. lumber, Alberta oil, Arctic oil, prairie crops, hydro from Quebec and Manitoba, mining from all over, steel and the auto industry in Ontario, and oil and gas and fisheries from the East Coast. A recent study showed that one in three Canadians is in some way dependent on exported goods or services for their income.
What this means for Canada is not just that we are dependent on our resources and international trading partners but that we are dependent on our own people who work in these industries: our commodities workers are essential to our prosperity as a country. In turn, their livelihoods – like the livelihoods of all Canadian citizens – depends on our ability to understand the international community and befriend it. Thus, as we harvest the profits of our industrial workers, we must also harvest the international experience of some of our other citizens.
We are interdependent – we need each other. In this international world we need our workers and our politicians and our so-called “elite” intellectuals. Most importantly, we need them to communicate and to cooperate. Especially as we face this current financial crisis.
Why, then, are our current leaders launching advertising campaigns to attack each other? Why would we even think about spending money to attack one of our citizens instead of to provide tools for the people of our country to learn and to communicate with each other?
We need people who can cooperate across their differences. We must empower leaders who foster community rather than conflict, leaders who succeed for society through a politics of unity rather than succeed for themselves through a politics of division.
I am worried, Canada. I am partly worried for myself: when I come back to serve you with the knowledge and experience I have gained from afar, will you call me opportunistic and turn on me too? But I worry more for you: once you start rejecting the skills and knowledge of your own citizens where will that leave you, O[h] Canada?