Throughout most of my life, Canada was a global leader and I have been proud to be Canadian. We led in peacekeeping, we led in health care and our model of multiculturalism, which embraced and incorporated all newcomers was an inspiration to all. We were social and technological innovators, and we were respected in the community of nations. When I travelled to Europe in my youth, we were told to proudly pin Canadian flags to our luggage, because being Canadian opened a lot of doors with people around the world who thought well of us.
That image is significantly tarnished today. In international climate negotiations, Canada is viewed as an obstinate and uncaring bully. We dragged our feet on signing on to protection for indigenous peoples, even though Canada had been a leader in helping to write the text. We are involved in questionable military missions with no tangible goals. We’ve been cutting away at public health care and women’s rights bit by bit. The richest Canadians are raking in record profits even as more and more Canadians are driven into poverty. Our government worries about protecting corporate interests more than protecting health and wellbeing. Our social safety net is being eroded away. And true democracy is being stressed as more and more power is concentrated in the Prime Minister’s office while elected officials are reduced to blindly following their party leaders, often against the wishes of their conscience, the majority of their party members and their constituents. National elections are becoming ugly mudslinging matches. Our national obsession with the tar sands resource is destroying manufacturing in the rest of the country and putting us on a path to becoming a banana republic. And recently, our Parliament, with participation of every party in the House, killed an initiative that would have stopped Canadian mining companies from inflicting lethal practices in other countries that are prohibited in Canada.
These days, wearing a maple leaf pin can be a source of shame rather than pride. And that is not the Canada most Canadians want to see.
We should once again become the proud global leaders Canadians yearn to be. And we can do it.