Resolutions for Canada

Nobody seems sad to see 2008 depart. Economic, environmental, political and social crisis are (for now, at least) the defining memories of these last 366 days. But 2009 will be no improvement on the current year unless we engage in some changes.

What would that mean for Canada? Assuming “peace, order, and good government” remains a valid national aspiration, here are five resolutions to set us on the path:

1. Help First Nations heal
Poverty, crime, disease, substance abuse, lack of access to clean water, psychic scarring from the residential schools, a growing population, outstanding land claims… everyone knows these issues affect Native people. What we must acknowledge is that they affect us all. Canada is not a whole nation while so many people live as second-class citizens within our borders. Healing will involve all of us. It’s long past time to start in earnest.

2. Become environmental stewards

As Canadians, we have access to the most precious of the Earth’s dwindling natural resources: water, timber, oil, clean air, fertile soil, and space. Yet we are by any measure among the most wasteful people on earth. Canada will live, or die, by its natural resources. Exploitation must give way to stewardship.

3. Bridge the urban-rural gap

Increasingly, the historical image of farmers, fishers, and foresters is at odds with the urban Canadian reality. The countryside cries for attention, respect and investment; our metropolises need tax dollars, infrastructure and systemic support. “The Canadian way of life” needs redefining when rural and urban citizens live so differently and so far apart.

4. Make multi-culturalism meaningful

Canadians can be proud of providing a home for those who seek a better life. But we need to articulate a shared vision for Canada that is inclusive of the newcomers, as well as the many varieties of Canadian experience established here already. Conversely, all Canadians must be expected to actively engage with the geography, the history, the institutions, of the country as a condition of citizenship.

5. Demand accountable, responsible government

It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you’re on; our parliament has become a laughingstock. Party loyalty trumps national interest; consolidation of power is the first concern of leaders; reasoned debate has given way to showboating and name-calling. The list of undemocratic acts and occurrences in Ottawa over the past year is egregious. We will be challenged in 2009 to show that democracy can work in this unlikely land.

There are dozens, maybe hundreds more issues we could take on: breaking our addiction to automobiles; doing a true cost-benefit analysis on the Afghan mission; addressing the rapid pace of change in the far north among them But if we can take a serious effort at these five, we’ll be well on our way.

Of course, this is just my view. I’m only one tiny tile in the great mosaic. So let’s fill in the missing pieces together: What are YOUR resolutions for Canada? Leave your thoughts in the comments box below, and let’s talk about it.

Happy New Year!

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