Canada at 150

  • February 01, 2017
  • By Tony Wilson, QC

Bobby Gimby, where are you now that we need you?

Tony WilsonI'm old enough to remember Canada’s Centennial of 1967. It was celebrated a year after the 1966 Centennial of the Union of Vancouver Island and Mainland BC, and four years prior to the 1971 Centennial of BC joining Confederation. 

If you were in elementary school or high school during this time, you were always celebrating something. There was a centennial train that crisscrossed the country. There was Expo 67. There were fireworks. We sang Bobby Gimby’s catchy “Canada We Love Thee” virtually everywhere.

Combined with BC’s centenaries of 1966 and 1971, there was a virtual “Centennial Industry” in BC but it “jumped the shark” on the release of a hilarious 15-minute film by the BC Tourism Ministry called “Twenty Great Years.” It filled theatre seats all over BC in the days before there were commercials at the movies (and coincidently, weeks before the 1972 election) and it celebrated 20 years of Social Credit rule. No one particularly cared about the feature film. People flocked in droves to see “Twenty Great Years” because we got to see soviet-style propaganda in our own province featuring BC’s Great Helmsman, WAC Bennett.

I’m not entirely sure what we were celebrating in 1967 other than Canada’s survival. But at 150, we have a lot to celebrate. Required reading should be the cover story of The Economist in October 2016, which featured a grinning Lady Liberty with a maple leaf on her Crown holding a hockey stick. “Liberty Moves North – Canada’s Example to the World” was the headline.

A week before the U.S. election, The Economist argued that the U.S. had more or less walked away from its role as a “beacon light of freedom.” Canada has seemingly assumed that role, as evidenced by taking in approximately 33,000 refugees displaced by the Syrian civil war, our desire to knock down walls (as opposed to building them), opening the doors of trade (as opposed to slamming them shut) and, (if I can paraphrase), our gun-free, tolerant and multi-cultural society that doesn’t give a damn which bathroom you use as long as you clean up afterwards. That’s also worth celebrating.

Did you know that one of Canada’s most important exports is its Charter of Rights? An article in the New York Times in 2012 stated that the U.S. Constitution was going into “free-fall” as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere in the world, in favour of the Canadian Charter of Rights. Once again, cause for celebration. 

The election of Donald Tweet as U.S. President may well hasten Lady Liberty “Getting out of Dodge” to find a better home in Canada. Mind you, we still have Canadian politicians trying to capitalize off of Trump’s election. The politician who proposed a “Barbaric Cultural Practices Tip Line” during the 2015 election, is now proposing a “Canadian Values” test for all immigrants (despite extensive reviews performed by CIC staff as part of normal screening procedures anyway). 

In a nation as diverse as Canada, could Canadians even agree on what our values are, other than, as The Economist suggests, “decency, tolerance and good sense?” If, at a minimum, we could agree on these three values, is a values test itself contrary to decency, tolerance and good sense? Or is it a ruse to try to bar certain ethnic or religious groups from becoming Canadians because they might not share the values of certain conservative politicians? 

As we all know, tests can be prepared for, facts can be memorized, and candidates can provide answers they think the adjudicator wants. And it doesn’t test those born in Canada who become radicalized.

More importantly, who gets to draft this test anyway? I’ll tell you what. I will. It’ll be comprised of 100 questions with a passing grade of 75%. Question 1: How does a Canadian Values Test offend Canadian values? Here’s the catch: any politician who supports a Canadian Values Test has to pass my test. 

What on earth do we do with them when they fail?

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Tony Wilson, QC is a franchise lawyer at Boughton in Vancouver and a Bencher of the Law Society. The views expressed herein are strictly those of Tony and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society, CBABC, or their respective members.