Canada, which celebrates its hundredth anniversary on the first of July, is also marking, for better or worse, a decisive turning point in its role in North American culture. The question, quite simply, is whether Canada is going to become a satellite of the United States.

Canada’s potential role is no longer doubted, for it occupies the second largest land mass in the world after Russia; and its relatively tiny population, just over twenty million, threaded in a loose network of cities along the southern border, manages to produce enough goods and services to rank it among the top ten nations of the globe. Canada is rich in raw materials, has the second highest standard of living in the world, and possesses nearly all the resources for an industrial society within its own borders.

But a problem of identification haunts Canada: it is both a part of North America and a part of the British Commonwealth. Whether the Commonwealth really exists as a political force or not, all of its members share an inheritance from England which is both good and bad: good in the political institutions and tradition of civilization it provides; bad in making the younger country spiritually dependent on the older, sometimes long after political independence has been granted.

Canada is not exceptional among Commonwealth countries in its dependence on England. Its present identity crisis is a late phase of the malady which, granting regional differences, affects India, Pakistan, the West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, Ghana, and even Rhodesia. Moreover, despite its benefits in international prestige, Canada’s presently strong role in the Commonwealth has had the unfortunate side effect of beclouding the problem of its role in North America.

These two poles of the problem — the unrealized role in North America and unemancipated participation in the Empire —are the major issues in any discussion of Canada. The problem is an important one for Americans because they are going to become more and more dependent on Canadian raw materials in the foreseeable future. Access to those materials will depend, to some extent, on maintaining the friendship which has always existed between the two countries. North American affairs will become the joint responsibility of both countries, and narrow nationalism on either side will not do.

In general, from the Canadian side, proposed solutions have usually taken two forms. For Wilfrid Laurier, a French-Canadian Prime Minister before the First War, Canada was to become a great, independent nation. This was to be “Canada’s century.” For Goldwin Smith, a regius professor of history at Oxford in the nineteenth century, the idea of Canada seemed a geographic, economic, and ethnic absurdity. Proponents of both of these extreme views may still be found in Canada (along with others, like the Quebec separatists).

Canadian isolation

So far, however, North American culture has been almost entirely American. The reasons are obvious. Canadian contributions have often been high in quality, but rarer than they need to have been. At present, the Canadian cultural debt to the United States is immense, Canadians are in effect financed and defended by Americans. Their advanced education takes place largely in American graduate schools, where they are made as welcome as indigenous students. Their writers and artists could not exist without the support and patronage they receive from south of the border.

More than ten years after the Massey Report on the arts and sciences released the sobering statistic that Canada was the only Western nation which did not possess either a national library or a national journal of public opinion, Canadians are still reliant on American facilities. But now Canada’s economy is developing, as are its graduate schools and outlets for creative talent. It is reported that the exodus of gifted people to the south is reversing itself. Canadians are beginning to exhibit a slight annoyance at how little Americans actually know about them, in contrast to what they are expected to know about Americans. Only this year, for instance, was the first chair of Canadian studies established in an American university.

The discernible changes in Canadian sentiment have led me to reassess an earlier, almost totally pessimistic, set of observations I wrote for the Atlantic on national culture (“Why Young Men Leave,” November, 1964), in order to take account of the positive elements I have seen taking shape in the centennial year. The account which follows is not comprehensive. It omits Quebec, a province which I feel has its own problems, virtues, and spokesmen, and the “new Canadians” who have emigrated from Europe since 1945, and who are now appearing as a force for the first time since then. A good deal that is right about Canadian culture today is directly attributable to these two groups; and a good deal that is wrong, to the English-speaking group who still enjoy a plurality, if not a majority, of power. Because the English are still in control, however, any analysis of the factors for and against Canada’s playing a new, positive role in North American affairs which omits them is unrealistic. For this reason, and this alone, I have devoted most of my report to them.

Being “American”

Though Canada celebrates its centenary this year, in fact one must date its cultural, as opposed to strictly political, emergence from 1931, when the Statute of Westminster recognized its complete autonomy. The first sign of this emergence was a new nationalism. It had appeared before, but not with a North American coloration. For the first time, Canada wanted to be a part of North America. Being “American” became something of a fad. As Professor Donald Creighton of the University of Toronto has observed, “The importance of Canada’s membership in the British Commonwealth was now deliberately minimized. People made the remarkable discovery that Canada was a North American nation, and all sorts of astounding conclusions were deduced from this hitherto unrecognized fact. A whole new generation of politicians, publicists, journalists, and professors — the professional Canadian nationalists of the 1930’s — arose to extol the sufficiency and normality of our North Americanism.” More important, Canada’s foreign policy began to shift its center of gravity from the Old World to the New.

In any corner of the provinces nowadays one can hear conversations on what is called “Canadian identity.” At least a dozen books and a score of essays have been published on the subject in Canada. Canadian culture is one category, however, and Canadian arts and letters another. And when all is said, Canadian literature has probably played only a minor role in North America. With the exception of French-Canadian writing, it probably does not merit the attention which Edmund Wilson recently gave it in 0 Canada. Northrop Frye in his conclusion to the Literary History of Canada, published in 1965, remarks quite accurately that “there is no Canadian writer of whom we can say what we say of the world’s major writers, that their readers grow up inside their works without even being aware of a circumference.” In fact, the force of the subtle stories of Mavis Gallant lies in the way her discontented English-Canadian characters constantly reject the narrow confines and hollow, elitest values of their own society.

But if literature has not been entirely successful in achieving its goals, notable attempts have been made by historians, economists, and sociologists. A recent book of this kind is John Porter’s The Vertical Mosaic, an analysis of the power structure of Canadian society. No foreigner could read this book without observing, as D. W. Brogan did on a trip to Canada in 1950, that “there is . . . for an outsider ... a permanent shock arising from the fact that being so alike [Canada] is not identical” to the United States. Porter shows that Canadian society, differing from American, is not a classless, democratic melting pot. This is merely the image which Canadians have of their society. In maintaining the self-image of the melting pot, Canadians perpetuate fundamental deceptions about themselves, deceptions which ultimately lend to a kind of Canadian paralysis.

Nineteenth-century society

Until radio began in 1923, Canada had only limited forms of media in the country: church, school, and local newspapers. It was in many ways a nineteenth-century society, yet one that had managed to survive the same catastrophic war of 1914— 1918 which shattered so many Victorian illusions in Europe.

Canada emerged very suddenly in the last four decades into both political independence and the complex world of radio, then television, the computer, and the bomb. It is significant that two Canadians, Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan, were among the first to describe this latter fundamental change of environment.

The present Canadian is basically ahistorical in makeup, but sees himself as a composite image of definable, historical elements. As long as he looks in the rearview mirror, this view of himself is an acceptable deception. But let him confront himself directly and realize that he has no historical identity, and he receives a profound shock. The African member of the Commonwealth, by contrast, may actually possess a long history of which he is not yet sufficiently aware because of bad education; and when he finds out about it, he may be led, as some have, to excesses of nationalism. A Canadian faced with a similar situation has to admit that historical nonexistence is the native reality with which he must live.

Playing the Canadian hand

In realizing this, the Canadian, paradoxically, may be ahead of some other societies, but this does not lessen the angst of having to live in a world still seen largely in historical terms. It is in part a result of having gone “from colony to nation” without having also undergone the fundamental reassessment of identity which accompanied the revolution in the United States.

But this reassessment, this demythologization, has begun, and as is usually the case, political and economic realities are forcing Canadians at last to play their hand. Just now it is the financial control of Canadian businesses by Americans which has forced Canadians to reassess the role they wish to play in North America. The present debate has focused on the purchase of the Mercantile Bank of Canada by the First National City Bank of New York, but this is just the latest and most bitter controversy about American capital investment in Canada. Americans are said to control over 60 percent of Canada’s productive capacity. They continue to buy Canadian industries and businesses at what appears to be a steadily increasing rate. A list of the firms which have recently sold out to American interests may be found in A Choice for Canada, the latest volume by Walter Gordon, the proponent of economic nationalism. Mr. Gordon, a former Liberal Finance Minister, has recently been invited back into the cabinet to make a thorough study of American control of Canadian enterprises. Mr. Gordon’s thinking is not isolated, and he has said something important to Canadians, even if he has not told the whole story.

Who controls whom?

A more moderate position, as well as some more positive measures, issued from the Liberal Party’s national meeting in Ottawa in October of last year. This was the first major policy convention of the Liberals since the war. Held in the dignified salons of the Château Laurier on the eve of the centenary of the confederation, the convention could not help attracting national attention. The delegates themselves represented virtually every Canadian type; it was the first time many of them had been together under one roof. It was rather unsophisticated, nationalistic in flavor, and openly democratic.

Perhaps the key event of the convention was the battle between Walter Gordon and the present Finance Minister, Mitchell Sharp. A private feud between the two rages on, but at the convention it ended in a compromise draw, in which Gordon yielded in his bid for power while Sharp revised his views on American investment. Sharp told the convention that he wished to remain both Canadian and Liberal; he said he found no contradiction in Canada’s wish for independence as a nation and a positive, outward-looking policy in international finance.

If a remedy was to be prescribed, Sharp said, it had to be positive, not restrictive. He suggested a Canadian Development Corporation for channeling foreign capital into places where it was needed. He warned that Canada’s actual need for foreign capital was bound to increase, owing in large part to the dramatic failure of Canadians to seize the initiative themselves.

Gordon replied that foreign control was not a partisan, regional, or personal issue, but a national one. “Specific proposals” in a nationalist direction were needed, he said, even at the risk of lowering the standard of living a bit.

One of these proposals, in fact, came just a few months later in the Canada Bank Act, passed by Parliament last spring. The First National City Bank is now asked to sell Mercantile because the parent company is violating this new Canadian statute. A bank spokesman complained in his testimony in Ottawa that the bank law was “discriminatory.” Doubtless it is. But doubtless Canadians, like Europeans, resent the fact that major decisions affecting national corporations are being made in New York. In contrast to Europe, Canada holds a strong bargaining tool in its natural resources; it will therefore benefit both countries if a trade balance is restored. In a speech last spring, Maurice Sauvé, Minister of Forestry and Rural Development, presented the Canadian position in fair terms:

“Our perspective of foreign investment should not be one of fear, concern and nationalism for nationalism’s sake. Our approach should be positive and should be based on our assessment of the overall needs of the Canadian economy. In our acute sensitivity to the imagined effects of foreign ownership on the performance of our economy I believe we have allowed ourselves to be distracted from more important problems facing us. Our objective should be to develop the full economic and social potential of our nation. What should concern us is whether foreign investment and Canadian investment are being effectively used to reach this objective.”

But even intelligent nationalism cannot help being confused with the uglier brand of chauvinism which is a colonial holdover; to most Canadians who know no economics, all the rhetoric of flag-waving sounds the same. Many Canadians still think that the assumptions on which their society was founded in Upper Canada — the rejection of the United States because of its disloyalty to the crown — give Canada an innate and inviolable superiority over its southern neighbor, especially in matters of patriotism, education, and culture.

Colonial elite

Canada also possesses a colonial elite, whose spiritual loyalty to the crown is, to say the least, a mixed blessing. John Porter’s study showed that of the 760 men who make up Canada’s economic ruling class, most come from the English-Canadian group. The novelist Brian Moore, a sometime resident of Canada, painted a satirical portrait of just such a Canadian:

“There is no such person as Stewart Henderson McMaster, yet he is easily invented. Almost certainly his name will have a Scottish ring. He is English on his mother’s side, and his wife, the granddaughter of an Anglican bishop, is also of English descent. He is a director of two or more of Canada’s dominant business corporations, a university governor, an executive member of the Canadian Manufacturer’s Association and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. He sits on the board of more than a dozen charitable institutions. . . . Stu McMaster does not consider himself British. He is Canadian. Of course his people came from the British Isles. They weren’t ‘foreigners.’ He believes that other nationalities, except the French, are not really Canadians. Last time he was in London, he and his wife were presented to the Queen at her annual garden party. It was a great moment. The British way of lite made Canada what it is today, and Stu McMaster thinks that no one should ever forget that point. . . . He is not anti-American, mind you. Far from it. Some of his friends went to college in the States and he knows a number of Americans in his business. Still, they are not quite his dish. Always pouring money into research and complaining about delivery dates and costs that run over estimates. They simply don’t understand the way things are done up here.”

An amusing caricature, but do people such as Stu McMaster really have a stranglehold on Canadian culture? Their image has to some extent been invented, partly by themselves for self-preservation, partly by their enemies out of hatred. They have, it is true, inflicted severe psychological damage on Canada, but their contributions comprise some of the most characteristically Canadian institutions, like a belief in education, an ideal of public service over private, and a sense of justice founded upon constitutional democracy. Many of the members of this class have made a forceful break with previous generations to enter neglected professions, like university teaching. In an age in which Canada’s talent is easily lured elsewhere, the English Canadians also provide a bastion of loyalty.

Yet few of Canada’s richest families, almost exclusively of this group, have followed the example of the Masseys and done for Canadian cultural and political life what the Mellons, the Rockefellers, and the Kennedys have done in America. Too often the rich English Canadians follow the simpler pattern of abdication, leaving their assets in the country to earn dividends while they become absentee landlords.

Too often, as well, the English Canadian will be found to be wrongheaded in his approach to the United States. He will complacently maintain that Canadian culture is superior to the American culture he rejects, while the latter is in fact captivating him. He may even go on to maintain that he can, if he wishes, participate in American culture at the same time. This too is erroneous, since Canadians do not, as a rule, become more than superficially absorbed in the American way of life or its ideals. So the anglophilic Canadian’s appraisal of America is doubly inaccurate: he thinks he is participating in a culture in which he is not, while he rejects that very culture as being inferior to his own.

“Middle diplomacy”

Canada’s Department of External Affairs was founded in 1909 by Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier, who established embassies in Washington, Paris, and Tokyo. Like other Canadian institutions, it did not emerge from dependence on Great Britain until the thirties. Thereafter, Canadian foreign policy was virtually inseparable from that of the United States, except for the virulent anti-English, and later, proVichy sentiment among French Canadians. Only after World War II, when the myth of an impregnable North America disappeared along with the myth, short-lived, of the infallible diplomatic wisdom of the United States, did Canada’s foreign policy appear to diverge from that of its southern neighbor.

Of course, Canada is not a “neutral” country, nor does it wish to be; it is North American, pro-Western, and dependent on U.S. arms and protection. However, as a “middle” power, Canada has a certain mobility and disinterestedness in international affairs. Canada’s steady, unrevolutionary growth has, throughout its history, tested and retested its diplomatic sagesse, both within its loosely united provinces and in the world at large. Canada has gradually built a superb diplomatic service, unquestionably the most distinguished branch of Canadian government. Unlike other nations, it has almost consistently reserved key diplomatic posts for career officers, and pays diplomats salaries among the highest in the world. If Canadian diplomats are united on any single theme, it is the subordination of certain national interests in the pursuit of international cooperation and peace.

The Canadian record in the United Nations bears eloquent witness to this creed. Canadians have occupied a position of trust on almost every peacekeeping operation since the UN was founded. The independence of Canadian foreign policy has also revealed itself on important issues, like the admission of China and the war in Vietnam. The Canadian government tried to reach a compromise in the “two Chinas” deadlock of the last session of the General Assembly.

The Canadian position on Vietnam is similarly unideological. Recognizing that violations of the Geneva Agreement have taken place on both sides, Canada merely wishes to replace guns with diplomacy before the war is escalated to monstrous proportions. A Canadian diplomat, Chester Ronning, has made numerous trips to Hanoi in search of peace; and Prime Minister Lester Pearson has continually offered his services as a negotiator.

Canadian internationalism, moreover, is not limited to North America or to the United Nations. It was Mr. Pearson’s leadership at the last meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London which really saved the confederation from destroying itself through racial tensions.

Expo and exposure

The best in Canada’s aspirations for a new role in North American culture is represented by Expo 67. The international exposition, which will run until October on two islands in the St. Lawrence at Montreal, is the first attempt Canadians have made to show their land to the world. It has every chance of being a success. Typically, it is Montreal rather than Toronto which has taken the initiative, for during the past decade Montreal has become a truly cosmopolitan city.

Canadians and Americans who visit Expo will have a great deal to think about on this anniversary of confederation. For the Canadian, perhaps Expo will mark the start of fulfillment of the long-abdicated role in the culture of the continent it is his destiny to share with the Americans. The danger for the American is that he will merely dismiss the Canadian as being unworthy of notice. Canadians will encounter another danger. After Expo is finished, they may relapse into isolation and provincialism. But if they do this, the new, highspeed laws of the electronic age will not easily allow them another chance at asserting themselves and ridding themselves of the ghosts which have been haunting them and hampering their role in North America.

Brian Stock