SS Document of Learning: Identity and Canada
- Choose an event from Canada’s past or present (social, political, environmental, or economic) and describe / illustrate (show cause and effect) how this event influenced / influences all four of the quadrants. Provide images / primary source evidence where possible.
The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games influenced Canadians in several different ways. First of all, almost 86% of respondents in a poll conducted by the Association for Canadian Studies right after the Winter Games agreed that “when Canadian athletes win medals at the Olympics I feel a stronger sense of pride in Canada.” This overwhelming response shows that Canadians felt proud to be part of a country that was succeeding in the Olympics. Additionally, it displays the fact that the Winter Olympics helped produce a large amount of Canadian patriotism. As for politics, the Conservative federal government in power reaped heavy public approval (75%) for their $117 million plan to fund Canadian winter athletes. Because of the pressure Canadians placed on the government, Stephen Harper’s cabinet responded with heavier funding and a bigger focus on athletics in their agenda. And although it’s a stretch to say that the Winter Olympics fuelled Harper’s majority win in the federal election the next year, they certainly did help Canadians feel proud of their nation and athletes, and therefore more approving of the leaders who organized and sponsored the Olympics. Economic impacts of the Winter Olympics were also noticeable and positive, and Canadian Olympic Committee President Marcel Aubut stated that “the Games injected millions into the local economy.” Not only did businesses and tourists bring in over $50 million of tax revenue, but they also created 20,780 new jobs. These occupations could be in the field of construction, snow maintenance, or merchandise. The jobs brought more money into households, and also contributed tax dollars to the government, which could then spend money on infrastructure, job creation, and further funding athletes. Finally, the Winter Olympics affected the local BC environment in a harmful manner. Members of The David Suzuki Foundation that were actually present at the Olympics Games calculated its carbon footprint to be a whopping 328,000 tonnes, with athletes, coaches, and judges creating most of the emissions from their transportation to Vancouver. This shows that the Olympic organizers did not place environmental concerns as a high priority. Additionally, this statistic illustrates that despite a supposedly ‘higher commitment’ to the environment, environmental researchers and scientists made little technological discoveries in order to lower emissions at the Olympics.
- Does your event represent a step towards creating and maintaining a coherent Canadian identity, or does it move Canada more clearly in the direction of Trudeau’s discussion of a “postnational” state?
As best seen in the ‘social’ quadrant of Response #1, the 2010 Olympic Winter Games held in Vancouver was one of the most defining moments of the 21st century that helped Canadians create a more unified identity. Brian Williams, the head CTV broadcaster of the Olympics, and perhaps the person in the foremost position to comment on how the two weeks had changed Canadians, stated that “it was as if a river of red and white had swept across our country […] I really believe these games have changed our country.” First of all, the quote reveals that the entire nation bonded during the Olympics, not just Vancouver. More importantly, the quote demonstrates that Canadian citizens consider athletics as one of their most unifying elements. Bringing together athletes of different backgrounds and values into one team gave supporters a simplistic cause to cheer for, and one that was the exact same as their neighbor’s. In a year where an oil spill and traumatic earthquakes dominated international headlines, the Olympics offered Canadians a connection with each other, as well as the comforting thought that a nation impossibly different in terms of geography, diversity, and values could still be one.
- In your opinion, is there any value in trying to define a specific Canadian identity, or should we abandon this idea towards a more open and global idea of nationhood? Why?
Although it is important to celebrate our differences, Canadians should find larger value in coming together to create a unified identity. Rather than stimulating arrogance and ignorance, patriotism “is what makes us behave unselfishly, [and is] why we accept election results when we voted for the loser, [and] why we obey laws with which we disagree,” as the author David Hannan writes. A nation is essentially a group of people that belong to it because they believe in the society’s principles. This means that taking pride in what a nation is able to achieve can also help citizens accept its shortcomings. In the examples that Hannan offers, he suggests that members who belong to a nation can accept events and laws that do not support their own personal agenda because they know that those rules and principles can help improve their society as a whole. Subscribing to a nation’s set of beliefs also leads to accountability, where members feel a responsibility for trying to improve their lives and those of others around them. Finally, living in a world with respectful but distinct nations fosters a healthy environment of growth, in which nations can observe what other communities are doing to improve their situation and apply it to their own citizens.