1. Choose an event from Canada’s past or present (social, political, environmental, or economic) and describe / illustrate (show cause and effect) how this event influenced / influences all four of the quadrants. Provide images / primary source evidence where possible.

One of the most significant historical events that happened in Canadian history which helped shape Canadian identity, would be, the passing of the Constitutional Act of 1982. Until then, Canada had an Act called the British North American Act which functioned the same way as a Constitution, but reflected Canada’s continuing close ties to Great Britain. Most changes to the British North American Act had to be passed by the Parliament of Great Britain up until 1982. As a result of passing, Canadian society took a great turn in two different ways. First, “every citizen of Canada [now had] the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein” (Canadian Charter of Rights). In Canada’s early years, only men who were property owners and over 21 years of age were eligible to vote. Although many have fought to gain the right to vote, it wasn’t until 1982 all citizens had their voices be heard. Politically and economically, the Constitutional Act preserved a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is “the highest law of the land”. Canadians were now allowed to amend our own Constitution without requiring approval from Britain thus, completing the unfinished business of Canadian independence. The Constitutional Act had no impact on influencing Canada’s view to recognize the right to a healthy environment as it did not mention the environment at all. As a result, “we rank 15th out of 17 large, wealthy, industrialized countries on a comprehensive index of environmental performance indicators” (Conference Board of Canada). Although the Constitutional Act of 1982 did bring social, political, and economic benefits, it did not change Canada’s environmental views for the better.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau sign the Constitution Act on April 17, 1982 (The Canada Guide)

2. Does your event represent a step towards creating and maintaining a coherent Canadian identity, or does it move Canada more clearly in the direction of Trudeau’s discussion of a “postnational” state?

The passing of the Constitutional Act of 1982 most definitely represents a step towards creating and maintaining a coherent Canadian identity. Not only did it unite Canada as one, it also allowed all voices to be heard to the government. The Canadian Charter of Rights which was established when the Constitution Act was passed is still active to this day and in a way defines Canada. A study done by an Immigration and Visa Documentation Specialist, one of the top ten reasons why immigrants wish to come to Canada is because we give the right to religion, culture, language, as well as the freedom of communication. Without the Charter of Rights, us Canadians wouldn’t have had the same freedom we have today. There is a possibility that only women and men above the age of 21, provided they meet racial and property ownership requirements, would only be able to vote.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Library of Parliament)

The Constitutional Act of 1982 (Pinterest)


3. In your opinion, is there any value in trying to define a specific Canadian identity, or should we abandon this idea towards a more open and global idea of nationhood? Why?

What distinguishes Canada from other countries is that Canada has it’s own identity built from historical events which defines who we are. Abandoning the idea of having an identity, and moving towards a more open and global idea of nationhood brings no value because the country is essentially losing a major factor which characterizes who we are. Of course it may be impossible for everyone to share the same ideas as well as beliefs, but the fact that we are able to unite by being Canadian, whether it’s for the Fifa World Cup or the Olympics, show that Canadian identity still exists. Becoming a postnational state basically means that we no longer unite and show national pride.