Justin Trudeau’s bold remarks of Canada’s being a “Post-National State” have received just as much support as criticism, spreading controversy within our hockey loving country. Although many Canadian values (such as multiculturalism, hospitality, etc.) give support to Trudeau’s statement, can they be justified through historical evidence?
Let’s take for example the relocation of the Japanese citizens in the 1940’s.
During the second world war, the Canadian government became fearful of the Japanese heritage after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. David Suzuki claims this “event [that] began one of the shoddiest chapters in the tortuous history of democracy in North America”. The association between Japanese culture and treachery became a prominent idea amongst Canadian citizens, turning racial identity into social class. At the time, even science played a role in emphasizing this social division. In Letters to My Grandchildren, Suzuki describes these ‘scientific’ ideas as “misapplication[s] of the rules of heredity” (20). Nonetheless, the notion that the Japanese inherited treacherous traits spread like wildfire, and even held stakes in federal conversations.
In 1941, the Japanese-Canadians became categorized as “enemy aliens” under the Canadian War Measures Act, and began losing personal rights that they once held. In 1942, the American government began removing the Japanese population away from the coastline, an action that ultimately found influence within the Canadian government. Not long after, in 1944, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King publicly announced that all Japanese Canadian Citizens residing in BC would be moved east of the Rocky Mountains. This goes to prove much our Canadian identity relied on the decisions made in the United States. Although the bombing of Pearl Harbour was not a Canadian tragedy or issue for that matter, we still felt the need to treat it as an internal threat. In addition to internment camps, victims of this event were sent to work in farms around the country. These camps were situated all across Canada, ranging from the Okanagan to as far as Amherst Nova Scotia. This helped aid the lack of Canadian farm workers, and eliminated Japanese competition from popular fishing areas. However, the mistreatment of Japanese Canadians did not go unaddressed. In 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney delivered an official apology, and announced that Japanese Canadians would be appropriately compensated. The government payed out 21000$ to all surviving internees, and gave away 24 million dollars to Canadian Race Relations Foundation in an effort to relieve racial tension. According to a study conducted by PriceWaterhouse, the total economic loss from the entire situation resulted in a “total economic loss [of] $ 443 million” (Royal BC Museum). This was not surprising, as it followed shortly after Ronald Reagan addressed the same issue in a public announcement to the United States public.
This was a significant event in our history, and one that has been repeatedly taught and emphasized in Canadian schools (I personally studied a unit on this historical event in elementary school). We discuss the interment of Japanese-Canadian citizens not to justify the actions we’ve taken in the past, but instead to promote multi-culturism and prevent any speculative acts of bigotry from affecting our country. In this light, the relocation of Japanese-Canadians do support Trudeau’s claim because we’ve been able to reflect upon this event, and use it to advocate diversity in racial identity. But how can we preserve these values without having Canadians associate themselves with it? It would be nearly impossible to accomplish such a task without uniting our population under core philosophies. In my opinion, it would be a better idea to continually pursue a collective identity through the experiences we face as a country, instead of dismissing it for a pipe dream that would otherwise serve no purpose existing in our country. The very concept of a post national state is paradoxical, as it requires core national values (diversity, multi-multiculturalism, etc.) collectively accepted into a national identity – raising an uncertainty that Canada would be better without.
Although post-nationalism can be regarded as an evolutionary step up from housing a national identity, there are also negative affects it can impose on citizens. In my opinion, Canada is such an attractive country for immigrants because of the diversity already established within our country. Declaring ourselves a “post-national state” would in a sense, strip Canadian citizens of the positive communal values and social responsibillities they believe are associated with being “Canadian”. National identity gives individuals pride and patriotism, driving them to become better citizens. When Lester Peterson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his humanitarian efforts during the Suez crisis, it cemented Canada’s global position as a “peacekeeper”. It can be argued that the expectation to maintain peace in other countries has preserved the well-being of our own. Although this is just speculation, there is no doubt that our efforts to decline international hostility has benefitted internal Canadian affairs, giving citizens a sense of national pride.