contact March 15th, 2014
They came from China and England, from India and Mexico — 94 people of every age and race, from 13 countries in all. They arrived this crisp autumn morning at an imposing new office complex in Surrey, B.C., filling neat rows of folding chairs in a second-floor courtroom, Citizenship Judge Shinder Purewal presiding. The judge is a cheerful man in a happy job. He told them about some of his own experiences: the murder of his father when he was an infant, and how he arrived in Canada from India as a 17-year-old because his mother wanted to raise her family in a land of peace and security. Purewal, also a political science professor, told them how difficult it is to move to a country where you don’t speak the language or understand the culture. Give it time, he urged them, and Canada will exceed your expectations. He told them how he built a new life in Canada and earned a Ph.D., and how this country — ranked best in the world, he said — has much to offer them as well. “What makes this country great,” he said, “is your presence.”
They stood and raised their right hands — a little girl with bouncing pigtails and a pink coat, a dignified older man with a flowing white beard and a saffron turban, and all the rest — and they recited the oath of citizenship in halting French. “Now you are 50 per cent Canadian,” joked the judge. Then they recited the pledge again in English. Now you are 100 per cent Canadian, he said. They applauded. Friends took photos. And just before 10 a.m. on Nov. 13, the country gained 94 new citizens, with 94 sets of hopes and dreams and plans.
It was a beautiful thing to see. A visitor to the ceremony couldn’t help thinking this roomful of concentrated optimism and potential is a tonic that would benefit his fellow citizens, for a malaise seems to have settled upon the nation. Maclean’s, for the second year in a row, has asked Angus Reid Strategies to ask the world what it thinks of Canada. The pollster also asked 1,000 Canadians for a self-assessment. The results contain more than a few surprises. The world likes Canada, a lot: not the reality of Canada, perhaps, but the ideal of Canada, the idea of Canada. Canadians, however, have a host of misgivings about their country: its lack of independence from America’s influence, the compromised integrity of its government systems, its limited impact on world affairs. Simply put, the world is in love with a country that doubts its own worth. “To me, that’s one of those observations that come off the psychiatrist’s couch,” says Reid of the dichotomy. “I suppose we could spend a lot of time thinking what that means.”
Reid and his global partners surveyed a sample of eight countries — China, England, India, Israel, Italy, Turkey, Russia and the United States — quizzing them in late October about their knowledge of Canadian issues, asking their opinions about Canada at home and its impact on foreign affairs, and taking their assessment of Stephen Harper and other national leaders. Canadians were asked some of the same questions, generally, with less…