Posted on August 9, 2005

‘New’ Canada Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Connie Woodcock, Toronto Sun, Aug. 9

Oh dear, I guess I’ll never be governor general. Darn, and I thought I had many of the qualifications, too.

I’m female — a good thing. And I’m a journalist — which also seems to be a good thing. I’ve always wanted to travel in the Arctic and I even live west of Quebec, which is where the next governor general following the newly appointed Michaelle Jean will have to come from.

But sadly, I’m not an immigrant. I’m not a visible minority.

And, even worse, I don’t represent the “new” Canada. I’m definitely “old” Canada, so please forgive me if the last week’s events leave me feeling somewhat left out.

We’ve been hearing an awful lot about the “new” Canada lately — ever since Prime Minister Paul Martin announced Madame Jean, a CBC broadcaster born in Haiti, would be replacing Adrienne Clarkson whose term is up.

Let me get one thing straight: I have absolutely nothing against Michaelle Jean. She appears to be exactly the kind of person the job requires — outgoing, personable and dedicated.

It was the reaction to the appointment, not the lady herself, that shocked me.

She “embodies the new face of Canada,” burbled the Toronto Star. She is “a poster child for modern Canada,” according to the National Post. And our sister paper, the London Free Press, declared: “Now, three of the last five governors general have been women, which is more representative of a new Canada that encourages equality, rewards aspiration and welcomes the world.”

Excuse me, but what exactly is this “new” Canada? And what was wrong with the “old” Canada?

The feeling has been growing in me for quite some time — long before Jean’s appointment — that there is indeed a “new” Canada out there and that I am not terribly welcome in it.

City people

For one thing, I’m white. And my ancestors came here many generations ago — another negative.

I do not live in a major city — and in the “new” Canada, only city people seem to be considered appropriate.

Never mind that one-third of Canadians do not live in a major city and don’t want to. Never mind also that all of us are immigrants of one sort or another.

In the “old” Canada, you could live where you liked and if you didn’t speak another language, nobody minded. You could be as redneck or as left-wing or as wishy-washy as you wished and people would leave you alone.

People who know the history of their country before 1950 remember that in the “old” Canada, soldiers were soldiers and everyone knew what they did for a living.

In the “new” Canada, however, we don’t have warriors; we have peacekeepers who go around begging everyone else in the world to be good. And we go into shock when the chief of defence staff suggests that soldiers are in the business of killing. (“Old” Canadians, meanwhile, were cheering.)

No, in the “new” Canada, a real Canadian must live in a multi-ethnic neighbourhood in the inner city, speak at least two languages — or more if possible — and aspire to life in a high-rise condo tower with a population density approaching that of Hong Kong.

The fact that you could probably put an entire African village in my backyard or those of my neighbours is practically a matter of shame in the “new” Canada where less really is more.

But the big difference I see in the “new” Canada is the intolerance.

In the “old” Canada, Canadians were ready to accept whatever wave of immigration was breaking on our shores at any given time. We have taken in the world for decades and excuse me, London Free Press, we have always encouraged equality, rewarded aspiration and welcomed the world.

Now, however, I get the distinct impression that we “old” Canadians would be doing everyone a favour if we just packed up and moved to, say, the U.K. or the so-called “red states” in the U.S. which voted solidly Republican last year.

In the supposedly welcoming “new” Canada, we are dinosaurs.