Schafer, D. Paul, Will This Be Canada's Century?

Reviewed by Dr. George Simons at

It is easy to take Canada for granted, as it doesn’t clamor for attention in the world, at least in the cotton candy meta-narratives of power, politics, money and commerce, normally spun by the people who run things and swallowed by the grand public. Yet, if we listen carefully to Schafer’s account, Canada may provide the life-sustaining nutrients missing in this narrative. It’s about history, culture and character.

Every reviewer must sidestep his or her patchwork of frames about someone else’s part of the world when exploring an authentic native account. In my lifetime the Canada story includes: weekend fishermen smuggling booze across Lake Erie to sidestep Prohibition or save bucks; no honeymoon complete without a gushing Niagara Falls kiss on the Canadian side; an underground railway for peace-loving young men to avoid military bloodshed; an maple leaf backpack patch to discourage harassment; Québécois movies subtitled for French viewers; Cidre, poutine and a day in jail (mistaken identity).

Schafer’s flawless writing style quickly and efficiently introduces us to the history and political geography that bring us to a realistic view of present-day Canada. The current “Friendship Bridge” cross-border relationship masks a long history of US invasions and attempts to make Canada its own. It started in revolutionary times. Violent “Manifest Destiny” and Fenian Brotherhood incursions followed, and finally economic colonialism. Canada’s becoming and remaining itself while bedded with its elephant of a Yankee neighbor is no mean task.

While applauding Canada’s cultural virtues, Schafer’s book is not a prediction of Canada’s inevitable “ownership” of this century. On the contrary, it is a forceful and compassionate domestic plea for the fulfillment of his country’s cultural potential. Its realization lies in careful and caring management of its history, its landscapes and resources, its enterprise, its hard-won interculturalism, its creativity and its artistic talent, set in its ideals of “peace, order, and good government”. Schafer identifies and encourages these performative elements, sees them integrated and embodied in the ongoing creation and expression of an overall “Canadian culture”. His concept of culture is not some stereotypical framing of “what Canadians are like”. It is much more, a vision shared, a well-rounded way of life, a cohesive national narrative ever in the making. This culture evolves by driving peak performance in governance at every level of society, fostering spiritual as well as material integrity. It is not a destination but a destiny. It calls for real and productive human connections, despite the slippery slope of social networking now making us increasingly “insensitive to the needs and even the presence of others”.

Clearly Canada’s Century, as Schafer sees it, is not about competition in terms of size, economy, population numbers and the other material indices of greatness used, for example, to describe the 20th Century as the American one. In coming years, others, particularly China and India, will certainly exceed Canada in any number of these “success” dimensions. Yet, Schaefer sees Canada’s potency rooted in its being a unique and functional “microcosm of the global macrocosm” that will urge others to recognize their own potential. Will This Be Canada's Century? fosters the emergence an ever more holistic cultural narrative by which Canada will nourish and sustain itself, flourish, and become an inspiring model of human progress and fulfillment in the face of current apocalyptic challenges to the value and quality of human life on the planet.

Rock's Mills Press (2017). ISBN-10: 1772440906, ISBN-13: 978-1772440904

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