Is Canada young? Not any more.
If I heard it once this past weekend, I heard it 150 times: “We’re a young country…”
But we’re not young at all, certainly compared to the 15 countries that were born after the death of the Soviet Union in 1991. By any measure, Canada is a middle-aged country. We’re one of the oldest countries in the Western Hemisphere, older than 48 of the 53 nations in Africa, older by far than Germany, Italy and India. And even older than China and Japan as well.
In fact, of all 233 countries on Earth, Canada is older than 211 of them. Which actually puts us beyond middle age into… well, the only word for it is old age.
But even if Canada is one of the world’s oldest nations, we’re not old or successful or distinctive enough to be called a civilization – what those Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Japanese and our own Indigenous people were long before we moved from being a colony to a country in 1867.
Calling Canadians a civilization is a bit much, I agree, even a baby one. Besides, we’re far too modest to make such a claim.
But should anyone really care that this same modesty lets us tell the little white lie about ourselves that we’re young?
I do, and I think we all should.
Because denying your age when you’re a nation isn’t like being a 50-year-old who claims to be 39. That’s vanity and fear of growing old and irrelevant. If you’re a nation and you constantly go around claiming you’re younger than you are, I read that as a lack of confidence and fear that you can’t really cut it with the older, bigger kids.
And speaking of bigger kids, why do we Canadians also insist on calling ourselves a small country as well? We aren’t that either, at least in terms of our population (and certainly not in terms of geography; only Russia is bigger).
True, we have 36 million people, compared to China’s 1.38 billion and India’s 1.28 billion. But we rank 38th out of 233 countries – although this latest UN list includes such faux nations as the Falkland Islands (pop. 2,910) and the Vatican (pop. 792).
But we’re now half the size of our two so-called “founding” nations, Britain (66 million) and France (64 million) and we pulled away long ago from our “twin,” Australia (24 million). But the good news is, we’re growing faster than any other G7 country, fuelled by the highest rate of immigration in the G7. Indeed, there’s a new blue-ribbon think tank, the Century Initiative, founded on the belie
f that in order to reach our true potential as a competitive global nation, we’ll need to boost our population to 100 million by the year 2100.
So we’re not young. In fact, we’re old. And we’re not small. In fact, we’re mid-sized.
But what is the one true thing we can say about ourselves – and should be yelling from the rooftops?
That we’re livable.
Virtually every survey of livability or quality of life puts Canada at No. 1 or at worst in the top handful of the world’s most livable countries. Even more telling is the list of the world’s most livable cities. Again, depending on the source, Canada reliability throws up two or three cities into the ranks of the world’s Top 10 Most Livable Cities. And when you think there are now 3,400 cities with a population of more than a million, that’s a podium we can be proud to share, if not own.
So the next time you catch yourself saying (or hearing) “we’re a young country,” just say to yourself, “No we’re not. We’re a livable country.”
And then get on with the business of helping us be even more so.
Bob Ramsay is a Toronto communications consultant and founder of the RamsayTalks.