Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes me feel uncomfortable on Canada Day
Canada Day always leaves me somewhat conflicted.
Don't get me wrong. I like the country of Canada.
My concerns are more with how the day is celebrated.
Two years ago, writer Tanya Fink chronicled how Canada Day was turned into a giant military-recruitment festival in downtown Vancouver.
Tomorrow, we can expect Prime Minister Stephen Harper to deliver a patriotic speech that will glorify our military adventures abroad and overlook many of the reasons why I like Canada. They include:
”¢ The country's history of federal-provincial agreements, which have made health care and education more broadly available.
”¢ The progress Canada continues to make in race relations, notwithstanding our disgraceful historical treatment of nonwhite residents.
”¢ Canada's proud tradition of minimizing its role in ill-conceived wars, such as the U.S.-led attack on Iraq and the bombardment of North Vietnam.
”¢ Canada's impressive record of citizens responding to the federal government's woeful handling of environmental issues. (This includes Harper's opposition to an international limit on the export of cancer-causing crysotile asbestos.)
”¢ The role that municipal politicians in Canada have played in helping to change public attitudes toward smoking, drug addiction, transit, and the Cold War.
”¢ Our system of public pensions—while it's far from perfect, it helps some poor seniors avoid the fate of elderly people in many other countries.
”¢ The determination of community activists to draw attention to missing and murdered women, including those of aboriginal descent.
”¢ The positive impact that some Quebec politicians, including Gilles Duceppe, have played in countering biker gangs, which reduced their strength.
”¢ Canadian writers and artists (there are too many to mention all of them), who have enriched our lives in countless ways. I will highlight one: Lawrence Martin, an Ottawa-based journalist whose many books, including Harperland, have helped educate me about the way this country is governed.
”¢ Democracy Watch, an Ottawa-based group that regularly blows the whistle on the Harper government's reluctance to follow through on its accountability promises.
There are many more good things to mention about Canada. But as Samuel Johnson once said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." So I don't want to beat the drum too hard.
Besides, the prime minister has a habit of doing this anyway. Harper likes linking the Conservative party with symbols of the country, including the military, hockey, the monarchy, and the flag.
Canada Day offers an ideal opportunity for him to do this again—especially with Prince William and his new bride in Ottawa.
I'm sure all of this will have me cringing once again on Canada Day.
It's a slippery slope from patriotism into jingoism and all sorts of unethical decisions. Frankly, I don't have confidence in this prime minister to recognize the difference.
After all, real patriots wouldn't be out there promoting the export of carcinogens to the developing world.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.