I pilfered the heading of this post from a recent editorial in the Guardian: "Maple leaf ragged: what ails Canada?" The article suggests that our country's "hardline stances" on a number of issues has triggered "an undercurrent of anxiety" in our public discourse.
A long list of examples is provided: the toughening of immigration rules and the reduction to health care for refugees; the Quebec election of separatists triggering political violence; controversy over tar sands production; marginalization
of First Nations people; our increasingly U.S. line on foreign policy; and allegations of complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees. The article tends to overstatement but its claim that many Canadians are asking "whether their
country's reputation as a tolerant, environmentally conscious,
international peacemaker is suddenly in doubt" is accurate.
The dichotomy between what we had established a reputation for being and what we now appear to be stems in large part from having a government that doesn't represent us. It does formally, of course, but not factually. It was elected by a mere 40 per cent of the voters and its popularity has declined since then. Some governments elected by a minority attempt to represent the views and attitudes of most of their citizens, but this isn't one of them. Indeed, this may be the most ideologically committed federal government we've ever had.
The result is a government whose policies and practices often fail to reflect what most of us believe. Not surprising then that there is an undercurrent of anxiety in our public discourse, not only about how these policies affect us, but how they affect our reputation abroad. Certainly, when our malaise becomes a topic of conversation in other countries, we are something less in their eyes.