Do Canadians have a common culture?

Back in April, I talked about Canada’s unique position when it comes to race and identity. Specifically, I talked about the fact that Canada doesn’t have a unified national identity, and that this allowed us to absorb culture from all over the world in a way that other countries can’t.

It appears that about half of Canadians agree with me:

Canadians are almost evenly split on whether residents of the country share a “common culture,” according to a new national survey exploring perceptions of social cohesion in Canada.

I suppose it’s more accurate to say that I agree with about half of Canadians, since the vast majority of Canadians don’t read this blog. Whatever the case, we can’t even agree if we have a common culture or not, suggesting to me that we don’t. This has its downside, absolutely. I am a proud Canadian, I love the shit out of this country. But pin me down and ask me to define what specific things I am proud of that other countries don’t have, and I might have a difficult time of it.

There was another piece to this article that caught my eye though:

More than three-quarters of respondents — about 77 per cent — agreed with the idea that “Canada’s cultural life is enriched by people with different cultural backgrounds than the majority.”

Again, this speaks perfectly to what I was talking about before. Canada is a rich mosaic that is built of cultures from everywhere. That is what unifies us – we don’t force capitulation to a standard of Canadian-ness. Our lack of -ness is our -ness.

This reality puts specific challenges in front of us, but potentially allows us to set the stage for the rest of the world. Everywhere immigration is becoming an issue. The world is connected like never before – the internet, accessibility of travel, increased global trade. Soon everywhere will find that their national identity is eroding under the gradual waves of novel cultural expression. How amazing would it be if the rest of the world looked to Canada as a model of how to make it work? How much more proud could we be of our country if we were the blueprint upon which the structure of cultural harmony and co-existence is built?

Plus, how much more awesome will our food be?


  1. Rene Najera says

    I have a similar view of the culture in the United States, and it pisses me off to see personalities both on the left and (mostly) on the right peddling a so-called “culture war” going on here. You should read the absolute bullshit being thrown around in my Mother’s hometown in Nebraska about how the town is now the “third world” because immigrants have moved in. Mind you, none of those assholes even know what the third world is. They, stupidly, think that their culture is no more because the homecoming king and queen were both Hispanic. Oh, the horror!
    I get nearly the same response when I ask why they won’t let their children learn Spamish when most children in Europe know two or three languages: This is America, we’re not like other countries. The funny thing is that none of them can tell me what America’s culture principles are. And God forbid I point out that inner cities are on par with some war-torn countries, because then I’m being racist.

  2. says

    It’s actually not a new phenomenon, Rene. A great example is the (if you will pardon my language for a moment, as I will be using the parlance of the time) crackers in the southern U.S. during the Jim Crow era. These were uneducated, unrefined, poor and largely directionless white people who were appeased by the demonization of black people. Sure, you might have absolutely nothing going for you, society at large might overlook and despise you, but at least you weren’t a nigger.

    There’s a real sense of entitlement I’ve seen among (and this is because I live in North America, so again I ask for your indulgence) white people – that this is their country, and that anything that levels the playing field (i.e., removes them from privileged status) is taking something away that they deserve by virtue of their skin colour. The perverse thing is that you see the same attitude whether a family has been here for 2 generations or 20.

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