This is Stefan Lorimer's response to What are you skating towards in 2012?
Canada’s New Identity
Respice Nos Exempla — Look to us for Examples — Tournent vers nous pour des Exemples — 希望我們的例子
Multiculturalism isn’t enough to form a national identity. I’m skating towards the establishment of national interests that can shape the Canadian identity for years to come. Canada and its peoples are changing and are not easily described by three solitudes, hockey, and oil interests. I want an identity that describes Canada not for what it was, not for what it is now, but for what it will be, a place to which other countries look for examples, and a place where people come to make them happen.
Canada’s official policy of multiculturalism has lasted over four decades as a defining national interest and dominant narrative from dinner table to world stage. Now is the time we add more than good manners and a welcoming nature to our biography. Anew national dialogue needs to emerge to capitalize on our past leadership while forging a new future identity. With Canada’s growing diversity, new aspirational goals that capture the imaginations of Canadians are needed.
One need not look hard to see common challenges for all citizens posed by Canada’s harsh climate related to housing, transportation, food, energy, education, and water. Exemplary solutions to these challenges are opportunities for leadership that define us both locally and globally.
Canada’s new identity needs to describe a place of continuous innovation, invention and excellence among peers resulting from our pursuit of living here. Soon enough, our poor record on the environment and living conditions of First Nation reserves will determine our collective identities. But just like the X Prize created competition for previously unattainable goals, Canadians could be competing for solutions to these issues as part of a larger strategy. Canada suffers from a lack of leadership towards a post oil, post reserve future. It is time for maturation and a new unifying vision.
For those who doubt it, here are some simple questions. When will international development agencies look to Canada for its leading collaborative work with First Nations to raise communities from poverty? When will environmental agencies look to Canada for ways of managing industrial water usage? When will the United States look to Canada as an example for science and evidence based drug policy? When will Canada be considered a leader on food production and energy usage for remote climates? When will Canada’s electric car charging infrastructure be used as an example for other nations? When will other countries look to Canada’s political apparatus as a shining example of accountability, transparency and genuine democratic principles?
Not today, but perhaps tomorrow. So I’m skating to a new national identity that aspires to solutions and excellence by example, and accolades from peers based on merit. I’m skating on a frozen Canadian lake, away from the well-worn patch where a game featuring pre-colonial rivalries is being judged by an old man instigating fights. There is space enough to provide abundant clean fresh ice to start a new game, where we can make new rules, make new mistakes, and change how people talk about the lake.
Many different languages, many different places, one identity. That speaks to our future collaborations to solve these great challenges. I’m talking about an identity based on values that are determined by many, and is not dictated by a single person in a single office.
Stefan has spent over a decade focused on issues he is passionate about; youth, music, film, arts, mapping, rights for people with disabilities and internet technology. He was involved in starting Tyze Personal Networks that provides software to bridge the formal and informal care in people’s
lives. During his work with PLAN Institute for Caring Citizenship and the Institute for Canadian Citizenship he became interested in issues of citizenship, social innovation and social enterprise. He is currently pursuing an MBA at UBC Sauder School of Business with an interest in energy systems and environmental technologies. http://www. stefanlorimer.com Twitter — twitter.com/slorimer
Note: I release individual essays from the collection, What are you skating towards in 2012? on a regular basis. Upcoming contributions are by Jacques Dufresne, Lindsay Cant, Richard Bridge and many others. You can access the accumulated essays here.