Canadian Identity

Canadian identity refers to the set of characteristics and symbols that many Canadians regard as expressing their unique place and role in the world.

Primary influences on the Canadian identity trace back to the arrival, beginning in the early seventeenth century, of French settlers to Acadia and the St. Lawrence River Valley, English settlers to Newfoundland and the British conquest and settlement of New France from the early eighteenth century. First Nations played a critical part in the development of European colonies in Canada, from their role in assisting exploration of the continent, the fur trade and inter-European power struggles to the creation of the Métis people. Through their art and culture, First Nations and Inuit continue to exert influence on Canadian identity.

The question of Canadian identity was traditionally dominated by three fundamental themes: first, the often conflicted relations between English Canadians and French Canadians stemming from the French Canadian imperative for cultural and linguistic survival; secondly, the generally close ties between English Canadians and the British Empire, resulting in a gradual political process towards complete independence from the imperial power, and, finally, the close proximity of English-speaking Canadians to the military, economic and cultural powerhouse of the United States. With the gradual loosening of political and cultural ties to Britain in the twentieth century, immigrants from Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and Asia have reshaped the Canadian identity, a process that continues today with the continuing arrival of large numbers of immigrants from non British or French backgrounds, adding the theme of multiculturalism to the debate. Today, Canada has a diverse makeup of nationalities and cultures (see Canadian culture) and constitutional protection for policies that promote multiculturalism rather than a single national myth.

The issue of Canadian identity remains under scrutiny. Journalist Andrew Cohen wrote in 2007: "The Canadian Identity, as it has come to be known, is as elusive as the Sasquatch and Ogopogo. It has animated—and frustrated—generations of statesmen, historians, writers, artists, philosophers, and the National Film Board... Canada resists easy definition." In true Canadian fashion, however, even the search for an identity has become itself an object for self-criticism.


Read more about Canadian Identity:  Basic Models, Outsider Perceptions, French Canadians and Identity in English Canada, Aboriginal Canadians and Canadian Identity, Multiculturalism and Identity, The Role of Canadian Social Policy and Identity, Distinctly Canadian

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