I'm about to start my fifth year of university and I plan to continue school after convocating. I was raised in a Calgary suburb, and was born to middle class parents. While I had mostly white friends when I was younger, there was always a mix of different ethnicities in all facets of my life. I'm straight, but completely support gay marriages. I am a proud Canadian for a great number of reasons (including, but not limited to, multiculturalism, peacekeeping, music, being bigger than the US, comedy, etc.) and I am grateful that we did not wage war on Iraq.
I am also in my twenties and, according to the Globe and Mail's month-long "New Canada" feature, that makes all of the above information dramatically important. I will, as Saturday's front page announced, take charge one day--and one day soon.
The task at hand for Globe writers and editors is this: follow around, survey and question the twenty-somethings of Canada and find out what makes them tick. In short, understand them and report back.
The first edition of "New Canada" says, very plainly, that "the 3.9 million Canadians today in their twenties defy a label." Ironically, writers Erin Anderssen and Michael Valpy are trying to do just that.
I am their "New Canada." Educated, tolerant, proud, peace- loving, not religious in the traditional sense, Charter-of-Rights-loving and distinctly un-American.
However, this description, like this entire project, is remarkably misguided. I am not the "New Canada," because the "New Canada," much like the "Old Canada," or even the "Current Canada," is impossible to define. To try is to fail miserably. To even suggest is absurd.
Also impossible to define are the motivations driving those attempting this project. This type of undertaking, an ethnography of the younger generation, is nothing new. The Globe's look at the twenty-something may very well pale in comparison to that of the Gen-Xers ten years ago, and of the baby boomers before that. This infatuation with the incoming replacements is perhaps the last grasp of a soon-to-be outdated generation. It is the chance to attempt to understand something they do not, perhaps cannot, understand--but they are convinced they must. When we twenty-somethings see a stampede of new blood ready to take us down in 20 years we will likely do the same thing.
Motivation aside, one conclusion is very disturbing. Most troubling--aside from the 20 pictures of the "New Canada," with nine from Southern Ontario and only one, in Vancouver, from west of Hudson's Bay--is the main focus of this article and of the features to come.
The article goes to great pains to show that the "New Canada," appropriately Trudeau-esque, is markedly multicultural and tolerant. This acceptance--manifesting itself in interracial marriages, changing immigration patterns, and so on--sees immigrants buying into Canadian values much quicker than ever before, and losing the connection with their ethnic heritage. This is no surprise. What's odd is that the paper embraces, champions, even encourages this trend. When looking at America, we smug Canadians call this phenomenon a melting pot. In Canada, it's a mosaic. Any way you read it, we're simply homogenizing Canadian culture.
If true to the extent the Globe claims, this may prove to be the tragic flaw of the "New Canada." Without the mixture and collection of values and beliefs we cannot move forward and we cannot achieve the greatness these writers believe, perhaps even demand, we can. The article itself can't even decide which reality exists and which is being left behind.
In the end, we aren't likely to learn anything new as this is a near impossible task. What may have once seemed like a romantic and tearfully noble mission will become thick, distracted and confused. It will become this for one reason: like Anderssen and Valpy wrote, we defy a label. Good luck trying all the same.