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Canada What can Canada accomplish in the next century? A birthday wish list for The Globe and Mail

ANIMATION BY TIMOTHY MOORE/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

On March 5, 1844, George Brown – a Father of Confederation – launched the Toronto Globe, a then-weekly newspaper which became one of the most influential publications of its time. In 1936, The Globe acquired a smaller rival, The Mail and Empire, which created The Globe and Mail. Since then, Canadians have relied on The Globe for coverage and insight on the country’s key moments. We’re looking forward to writing the next chapter in Canada’s history, so we asked a number of prominent Canadians: What’s one thing you would like to see Canada accomplish in the next century?

Galen G. Weston

Executive chairman, Loblaw Companies Ltd.; chairman and chief executive officer, George Weston Ltd.

They say hindsight is 20/20. Sure enough, looking back, Canada’s history includes admirable domestic advances and global contributions that set us apart. But, like many modern industrial nations, in our pursuit of progress we have damaged the world around us. Today, with experience, information and science at our fingertips, foresight is also increasingly 20/20. And in the distance, I hope to see Canada reverse this trend and become a champion of sustainability.

As the fourth-generation leader of a family business nearly as old as The Globe and Mail itself, I believe Canadians should take a generational view forward. And for those generations, we need to re-engineer how business intersects with the environment, stemming the once-inevitable pollution and destruction caused in pursuit of profit and progress.

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Recent narratives have fostered a view that economic growth and sustainability are at odds. That simply isn’t true. Companies including ours have shown quite the opposite. Forward-looking efforts, including carbon, plastic and food-waste reductions, not only foreshadow a circular economy, they boost shareholder returns. Our current take-make-waste model for the economy is outdated, and in the future, growing prosperity cannot be linked to growing landfills.

This version of sustainability is more than simply using less. We need to be able to solve real-life problems with the intersection of human and technical potential. Accelerating crop cycles five times over through the use of indoor farming technologies, and reducing waste by linking consumers with surplus food while it’s still good to eat, are just some examples. They are real solutions that benefit both our business and our future.

Years from now, I hope my children and their children can look back and say that we were better than our industriousness. That we took responsibility. That we applied knowledge. That we changed.

Murray Sinclair

Senator

A fundamental shift in the way Indigenous and non-Indigenous people talk to and about each other is needed. Canada has to come to terms with its colonial past in a manner that does not continue to oppress but rather allows Indigenous anger to abate, for trust to develop and identity to flourish.

Law has and continues to be Canada’s greatest tool of oppression. While Indigenous peoples point to their rights as original occupants of this land as justification for their unique status and inherent rights, Canada has signalled its reluctance to go that far, primarily because it does not understand the Indigenous perspective. Indigenous peoples, themselves, have a hard time developing a consensus on what they include in their thinking when claiming inherent rights. That’s because much of what they need to know about themselves was and continues to be taken from or denied to them through the education system.

Education helps answer four essential questions: Where do I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? Who am I?

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that education is largely responsible for the current state of poor relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

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I would like to see an education system that teaches Canadians that this country had a long, rich history before contact; that Canada was created using European and Indigenous legal and social systems. We would learn about treaties, inherent rights, forced relocations and residential schools. With a full history, we wouldn’t be surprised by the social, economic, political and cultural despair that currently impacts Indigenous peoples.

The way Canadian history is now taught creates a tremendous barrier to reconciliation, but it needn’t. Regardless of our heritage, teaching our children that we are unique but equal, that we must treat each other with respect, is how we will bring about change. Education holds the key to reconciliation.

Julie Payette

Governor-General of Canada

Answer: Be the leader in international co-operation. Because we are all on board the same planetary spaceship.

Right now, barrelling at 25 times the speed of sound, 400 kilometres above the Earth, the International Space Station orbits the planet 16 times every day. Three astronauts are on board: one American, one Russian and one Canadian, David Saint-Jacques. Theirs is the latest chapter in an unfolding story of science and diplomacy that has been taking place on the ISS for the past two decades.

This story is a triumph for humankind. The ISS is one of the most complex and technically ambitious engineering projects ever undertaken by a group of nations. It will go down in history as the first of its kind and a model of large-scale international co-operation. It has been visited by astronauts from 18 countries and it is supported by a worldwide network of facilities. The ISS is a tour de force not simply in R&D, but in the unprecedented collaboration, synergy and entente the partners have displayed. It is a remarkable diplomatic success and one that I often highlight as Governor-General as an example we should follow more often on the ground.

The benefits of multilateralism cannot be overstated. Canada’s participation in major international endeavours adds to our knowledge, improves our collective well-being and inspires the next generation of leaders and visionaries. More importantly, it demonstrates what we can accomplish when we think and act beyond the microcosm of nationality and work in a collaborative spirit and a peaceful manner.

Global issues know no borders, no timetable and truly need our attention. In the century to come, Canada can be a bold, unapologetic champion of global diplomacy. We are in a position to make a difference and help work toward a brighter future for our planet.

Fred Penner

Family entertainer, musician and speaker

For more than four decades I have visited and performed in every corner of Canada from coast to coast to coast. I have met hundreds/thousands of dedicated teachers who have committed their lives to giving children as positive a learning experience as possible. I have heard stories of their frustration with reduction of staff and cutbacks to programs, often the arts. Studies have been done with absolute statistics verifying the value of music, visual arts, dance etc., in the formation of brain patterns that apply to every subject and discipline.

I fear that there is a lack of respect and real concern for our children. This is not just a financial consideration as governments attempt to balance a budget. We have an obligation to give the children of Canada the most comprehensive education possible. The STEM to STEAM concept of adding A (Arts) to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math mandate clearly can establish a foundation of confidence and self-awareness in the child, at the very least.

Children want to learn and discover what this world has to offer. If we do not create a teaching force that has the resources to deal with the vast range of abilities and challenges in the school system, then we are missing a fundamental opportunity to raise a productive, positive generation. We owe it to ourselves and our country.

Let the children know that we believe in them!

Mark Wiseman

Global head of active equities and chairman, BlackRock Alternative Investors

Scale matters. And, while Canada has vast geographic scale, we are middling in terms of our economic and geopolitical clout. Today, we are the 38th most populous country in the world and have the world’s 10th largest economy. Unless we make changes in the years ahead, we will fall dramatically in both of these categories, and our relative standard of living will diminish substantially.

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Canada’s long-term prosperity depends on people. Our citizens truly are our greatest natural resource. But our population is aging and we have a low birth rate. By 2035, a quarter of Canadians will be over the age of 65. As we grow older as a country, our work force will shrink, limiting economic growth and increasing pressure on government budgets and on a smaller pool of working Canadians. At the same time, costs for public services, such as health care, education and old-age security, will increase substantially. We need a course correction in this country – growing our population, pro-actively, ambitiously and over the long term is the surest way to build economic, social and cultural prosperity for all Canadians.

And, it’s not just about more people. We need to be able to develop a co-ordinated set of solutions for early childhood support, immigration, urban development and infrastructure, education, and employment and entrepreneurship in order to build a road map to a bigger, bolder, more prosperous Canada.

We’ve tripled our population before – from 12 million to 37 million between 1945 and 2019. In fact, this population growth has created much of the prosperity that we enjoy today. However, this prosperity is at risk. To have a successful country over the course of this century, we need more people. At current birth rates and immigration levels, we will barely reach 50 million Canadians by 2100.

At a time when countries around the world are adopting increasingly nationalist and protectionist agendas, a goal of growing to 100 million Canadians by 2100 will be truly transformational for Canada – and taking relatively small action now (for instance, we only need to increase immigration from 350,000 to 450,000 people per year to reach the goal) will pay compounding benefits – economic, social and cultural – to all Canadians over the course of the next century.

Margaret MacMillan

Emeritus professor of international history, University of Oxford; professor of history, University of Toronto; and author

My answer is simple: that Canada survive as a nation. We too often take for granted the improbable and extraordinary accomplishment this country is. In a vast and challenging land a small population, divided among the Indigenous, French and English speakers, and then waves of newer immigrants, has struggled to build a polity that works. Our beginnings as a nation were inauspicious and we have had dicey moments. Our borders were set partly by geography but also by deals and lines drawn arbitrarily on maps elsewhere. We are as artificial as those new countries in the modern Middle East or Africa.

Yet somehow a Canadian people and state have emerged and survived. It hasn’t always been easy. We have had our family quarrels and still do. Those who were here first have feared newcomers’ different cultures and values, yet in time these too have become part of Canada. I am often amazed that we have pulled it off. We have built a society which is largely tolerant, kindly and fair and which believes in democracy, rules and laws. Canadians are aware, sometimes to a fault, of the dark patches in their history and our present shortcomings, but the rest of the world ranks us among the most loved and reputable countries in the world and finds hope in our existence.

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Why worry then about the future? Canadians do not recognize enough that keeping a nation going is hard work. We tend to dwell on what divides us – whether region, language, ethnicity, gender or class – and forget about something called the common good. And like the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings, living in their cozy Shire, we don’t notice that the world is becoming increasingly dangerous. We have what others want, especially land and resources, and we cannot protect ourselves. If you can still be here, dear maddening, lovable and admirable Canada, in 100 years, that will be your great accomplishment.

Rosalie Silberman Abella

Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada

My parents were survivors of the Holocaust. I was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany in 1946, the year justice emerged assertively from the injustice of the Second World War. We won, and created the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention, all to preserve the conceptual fruits of victory.

And how gloriously it was implemented in the next seven decades of my life! We swept away apartheid and segregation and swept in women and minorities; we deeply regretted our treatment of Indigenous people; we respected the diversity of sexual preferences; and we constitutionally protected the right to be free from discrimination.

But as proud as I am of all the work justice has done in my lifetime, especially in Canada, I am no longer convinced that the moral consensus I grew up with is safe in the rest of the world. Too many rights abuses go unrecognized, let alone confronted, too many governments have interfered with the independence of their judges and media, too many people have lost their liberty arbitrarily, too many people are hungry, too many people have died in armed conflicts and too many people have lost hope. We are in danger of a new status quo, one where intolerance is tolerated and tolerance is not; too much like the old status quo we fought a world war to fix.

Except in Canada. The compass of Canada’s justice trajectory in my lifetime has resolutely pointed toward ever-expanding fairness, not always at the pace we hoped for, but always directed at clearing away the debris of injustice.

So what is my wish for Canada? That it stay true to the hopeful, generous country it has become, and insistently guide the rest of the world to the justice that emerged triumphantly from the ashes of Auschwitz, a world where all people can, like most Canadians, wear their identities with dignity, with pride and in peace.

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David Suzuki

Scientist, broadcaster, author, activist and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation

In evolutionary terms, the way we see ourselves and our place in the world has changed suddenly. Politicians now elevate the economy, a human construct, above the atmosphere that gives us air, weather, climate and seasons.

For 95 per cent of human existence, we were nomadic hunter-gatherers, carrying everything we owned as we followed plants and animals through the seasons. We knew we were deeply embedded in the natural world and depended on it for survival and well-being.

The Agricultural Revolution sparked a radical shift. With a reliable source of food, we could build permanent structures that became villages. By 1900, 1.5 billion people inhabited the world, but only 14 cities had more than a million people. Agriculture still dominated our lives. Farmers know we’re at the mercy of weather and climate, that insects are vital to flowering plants, that certain plants take nitrogen from the air and fix it as fertilizer in the soil.

The 20th century was dominated by technological innovation, consumptive demand and an overwhelming global economy. By 2000, human population exploded to six billion, but most lived in about 300 cities. Because jobs are the highest priority in cities, the economy became a preoccupation.

We are so impressed with our recent history that human-created institutions like economics and politics increasingly govern our lives. The trouble with politicians is politics. Re-election is a higher priority than tackling issues that extend beyond an electoral cycle or outside of party policies. Corporate economics consider nature and its services as externalities while promoting endless growth as the measure of progress.

We must return to long-held understandings that we are biological creatures for whom clean air, clean water, clean soil and food, and clean energy are necessary to live and live well. The web of living things cleanses, creates and replenishes those fundamental needs. With greater humility, we can regain our ancestors’ gratitude to Mother Nature and the sacred responsibility to care for her.

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Max Kerman

Singer-guitarist, Arkells

There isn’t one particular thing I’d like to see Canada accomplish – there are so many I wouldn’t know where to begin. I’m more interested in our collective health, and how we choose to approach the issues of the day. How do we exercise those essential muscles: generosity, patience, forgiveness and gratitude? The fight for social justice and progress relies on these qualities.

If we keep these ideals close to us, everything else – good policy, community building, the economy, name it – can bloom.

I like to believe that everyone wants to practice these virtues, and it’s simply a matter of creating a culture that encourages this kind of behaviour. I have a growing concern with how people from different lived experiences choose to communicate with each other. Our inability to see a foe as someone who is simply hurting in their own way makes for impossible conversations and debates.

So how do we make every interaction clearer and richer?

On our best days, Canada is a place that recognizes how deeply good it feels to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. There’s no material good that offers the warmth and sense of belonging than a nurturing, caring community.

Who we are and how we see the world is simply the sum of a million little interactions and experiences. Canadians should want to walk through each community and know that we’re doing our best to offer love, mercy and attention to those who need it the most.

The reality is, there will always be a variety of personality types and starting points on the political spectrum. We can either get mad about the number of opinions or find a way to make the complexities of our backgrounds useful. There’s so much ambition and goodness in this country and harnessing it the right way is the trick.

If we can embrace the better angels around us, the hard and complicated issues become easier to navigate.

George Elliott Clarke

Poet

Constitution Next

It’s late already, so make it soon – to Canadianize the Constitution, to make it people-friendly – Earth-friendly – to author a “Red Paper” for “Green Power” – finally, at long last.

Amendment 1:

Recognize Indigeneity as Canada’s fundamental, inalienable characteristic – and interpret the Constitution and all laws in this (green) light.

Thus, no longer would millennia-old, Conquistador practices – European imports – of seizing land, killing off animals, shackling down peoples, raping em wholesale, and/or scheming their extermination, not to mention pillaging their wealth (clear-cutting old forests, fracking subterranean stone, drilling into decayed dinosaur deposits and pumping up the effluvia), be the end-all and be-all of Occidental/“Caucasian” über alles socio-political and economic organization.

(What if Indigenous tongues were also “official” and employed regularly in courts and legislatures?

What if the Queen or King spoke Cree? What if the Queen or King were Iroquois?

What if all fossil fuel use were taxed – and all resource extraction got taxed – and every cent collected went to First Nations, Inuit and Métis?

What if 1 per cent of all property taxes – from sea to sea to sea to Great Lakes – were to be used to help fund self-government for Indigenous peoples?

What if Britain and France were no longer the prime movers of our theologies, ideologies and psychologies?

Could we then see each other, understand each other, as beautifully other, as different sorts of human beings – as truly equal citizens – and not as the appendages – “subjects” – of an offshore-originated, Class-and-Colour-calculating hierarchy?)

Amendment 2 (etc.):

Accord to Nature the very same rights and powers currently permitted corporations, and make them primordial and pre-eminent.

Charter for all – Rights to clean water, clean air, nutritious food, and Freedom from pollution and contaminants.

Enshrine also the principle(s) that police are absolutely subservient to the people; that the people are (the) sovereign.

Susanna Fuller

Senior project manager, Oceans North

Canada is a maritime nation. We border three oceans and have the longest coastline of any country in the world. Nearly all of that coastline is a present or historical homeland for Inuit, First Nations and Métis people. However, the ocean has also played a central role in our colonial history. Vikings, European explorers and missionaries arrived by sea seeking fish, a new world and power.

Our once-abundant fish stocks supported our coastal economies and those of other countries for centuries. But over the past century, our capacity to extract from the ocean has exceeded what it can naturally replenish. We take out fish and put back plastic. We take out oil and put back carbon dioxide. We transport goods and put back noise. We take out oxygen and put back sewage.

I hope the next 100 years will be defined by restoring and respecting the ocean. To maintain the wonders of the ocean and its core functions of moderating climate and producing oxygen, we will need to be bold and unapologetic. We will need to rebuild severely depleted marine species, reduce waste and keep it out of the ocean. We will need to increase our efforts to protect special places.

Canada’s path forward on oceans should be marked by key waypoints. Those should include doubling the biomass of our fish populations, halving the amount of plastic in our oceans and establishing protected areas that are supported and monitored by coastal communities. Canada should champion the new global oceans treaty that could ensure better protection for the half the planet that is the high seas. With these goals, we will begin to restore abundance and increase the probability that our ocean will continue to support humanity into the future.

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Dave Bidini

Musician, 13-time author and publisher of the West End Phoenix community newspaper in Toronto

The rights of Indigenous communities to self-govern? Yes. Equity and tax relief for artists in Canada? Yes. Subsidized air travel in the North? Yes. Electoral reform? Yes. A swift end to poverty by introducing a nationwide basic-income strategy? Yes. A move to electrical automotive technology and a plastic-free world? Yes. A Toronto swimming pier on Lake Ontario? Yes. Reconsidering all of those look-alike cop procedurals that we program on Canadian television and returning a sense of wonder to the current graveyard that is late-night CBC radio? Yes. Renaming the Northwest Territories “Denendeh”? Of course. A return of the Montreal Expos and a statue of Bill (Spaceman) Lee on Boulevard Saint-Laurent? Definitely. Abolishing awards shows and prizes in favour of musical education in underserved communities? Yes. Percentage of affordable housing written into heroic laws concerning a national development initiative that puts a roof over everyone’s head? Def. Less policing and security, and more compassion? I hear that. Support for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League by fans who traditionally watch other sports but have not yet laid their eyes on the power and skill that is Sarah Nurse? Uh-huh. Money for small communities everywhere to start their own non-profit, independent print newspapers? Um, duh. Mack Sennett on the two-dollar bill? (Look him up!) Tom Longboat on the five? Ruth Lowe on the 10! Buffy Sainte-Marie on the 20? We can do this!

But what I really want to see happen in Canada over the next 175 years is the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup.

In depth: The Globe at 175

In 2019, The Globe and Mail marks its 175th birthday. Watch publisher and CEO Phillip Crawley reflect on some notable moments from the history of the publication, and of Canada.
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