Citizenship Canada

CONSIDERABLE space has been devoted to the description of Canada’s vast area and wealth, but it must be remembered that ” wealth alone may ruin, but it cannot save a people.” A nation is saved by ideas, inspiring formative ideas. Canada has, perhaps, more to offer her citizens by way of material wealth than most other countries, and perhaps has as little of those principles and ideals of true greatness and true citizenship as any country. Real assimilation and fusion can only be accomplished by having ideals and ideas of true citizenship set before the people and interwoven in their lives.

True citizenship, and proper education for it, must depend on two chief lines, both of which are essential, though quite distinct. One may be regarded as the possession of high ideals in our relation to our fellow-citizens, and to public questions as touching our personal integrity ; the other is the necessity of being infused with a proper love for our country, and loyalty to the flag under which we live. True citizenship cannot exist where either of these qualities is lacking. A man may be the soul of public and private integrity, and be regarded as a good citizen by those who deal with him, but he may have no love for country and flag. He may even be at heart a rebel, and, of course, cannot be a true citizen.

On the other hand, a man may be devotedly patriotic and loyal, even to the verge of fanaticism, and yet may fail in the essential qualities of citizenship because of the low standard of his ideas respecting moral obligations. Many truly loyal men, who would shout themselves hoarse for the honor of the flag, have a small sense of ethics when it comes to questions of public trust or private integrity. This is a serious defect and cannot be atoned for by expressions of the most ardent and sincere patriotism. The man who will give or take a bribe for political purposes or otherwise is the worst example of these defective ideas of citizenship.

Speaking broadly, Canadians have much to learn in both these directions before they can fulfil the highest functions of citizenship or present the highest standards to those who are coming to us in increasing numbers from foreign lands. Great Britain presents a much higher standard of public moral integrity, and the United States a much higher standard of patriotism than are to be found in this country, and Canada can profitably emulate both of these countries’ in the qualities in which they excel. What is needed in Canada today is a larger public spirit and a higher moral tone, defects quite natural to a young country, but defects to be got rid of at the earliest possible moment.

As a rule our conceptions of citizenship are selfish ; we want to get all we can out of the country, but feel little obligation to contribute to its upbuilding in moral forces. The following from a well-known Canadian statesman is worthy of insertion here:

” It is in the young man’s mind, a country for all I can get out of it? Owing me protection under the law, owing me my bread and butter and clothes ; a young man’s country, good for me to get honor out of, pleasure out of, riches out of, distinction and influence and power out of ? That is, a country that I look upon as something like a great big orange to be sucked for my own pleasure and my own benefit. That is one way in which we may look at a country in relation to ourselves. Is there not another and deeper sense in which we should look at it ? Cannot we detect that clear, though not loud voice of Canada, saying to us, ` I have, something to get out of you ?’ Cannot we hear it saying, `I have cradled you in the midst of my legend and story and history ; my brooks have sung to your childhood ears; my ocean has beaten to your maturer days and stirred up the depths of your heart ; my lakes, my prairies, my mountains, my resources—yes, the deep beat of my life, has found its way into your own pulses. I have something to demand from you. It is not for you to look upon me as something out of which you are to get everything, giving me nothing in return. We must feel that we are under obligation to con-tribute something to the forces which go to make possible the higher ideals in our national life.

” Another need is a higher moral tone in our public and even in our private life. Men are aiming at what they call success, but regard the methods by which they seek it as being of small moment. The moral is sacrificed to the material. This is, perhaps, more characteristic of the age in which we live than of any particular z country, but it is nevertheless to be deprecated. There is an insidious evil that is creeping into the home, into business, politics, schools—into the country everywhere. It is the question so often asked and so often sadly answered, `What does it matter so long as I get there ? What does it matter so long as I am successful ?’ That is the devil’s own question. It is ruining more men and more reputations and eating into the life of the country with a deadliness that is not even realized. It means everything how a man got there. Better ten thousand million times never get there than be a millionaire; better never get there than be a prominent man in politics or a successful man in trade, if the getting there is in defiance of moral principles and straightforward conduct.

“Let men not forget the pathway through which Canada travelled in arriving at her present status. Let them cultivate the strongest integrity. In business let the business man’s word be better than his bond. Let them hold to the old Puritan fibre, the salt and savour of the best citizens of this country.

These men left home and luxury, and gave up everything for loyalty. Integrity is one of the first things we should impress on young Canada.

Another great need of this country is a larger place for the culture and the refinement which comes from the cultivation of literature and art, and the ideals which are inspired by them, as well as having lofty ideals concerning the responsibility of integrity. Let us realize that the life is more than meat, or the body than raiment. In other words, while the exigencies of life call for the exaltation of labor and capital, and they are worthy, yet it must be borne in mind that there are some things more to be desired. Don’t let us confine ourselves to the industrial side. What would a nation be if it had nothing but buzzing factories, nothing but fleets and fishing boats, nothing but an army of wood workers, and choppers and sawyers, and miners ? A nation is made up of various enterprises and varied qualities ; all these commingled and each working out its own excellence in order to make the beau ideal of a nation. There is work to do in the line of literature, of education, of art, of music, of engineering.

” The culpability of the elector is a fact that has been fearfully impressed’ upon the public mind in recent years; its continuancy may be regarded as a menace to the country’s prosperity, if not to her free institutions.

” In many instances it is impossible to get an unbiased opinion of public expression through the ballot. The party machine that is in the best working order and has the most money to spend can carry the majority of the electors on almost any issue. It is a sad condition of affairs when conscience, honor, influence and country are all at the disposal of the demigod with the largest purse to rattle or the most whiskey to offer. Both political parties must share the odium of this unhappy condition of Canadian politics. The whole country needs to be lifted out of this slough and mire of political impurity to the higher ground of a better citizenship. Education to this end is one of the imperative needs of the hour. The native Canadian must set a better example to those seeking citizenship among us if the country is to be saved the pain of bitter consequences in the future.”

In addition to these ideals to strive after, and which are to inspire us to a nobler national life, there are various social evils which demand the thought and effort of the best citizenship and statesmanship to eradicate from our country. The chief and only one which will be mentioned here is that of the blight of intemperance. It is true that Canada is not in this respect a greater sinner, or even as great as other nations, but for this very reason Canada is better fitted to take the lead in emancipating her subjects from a bondage so inimical to the largest measure of temporal prosperity, and to the highest moral virtues. Canada has taken somewhat advanced ground in this direction already ; let it be but a foregleam of the fuller triumph of the glorious light of national virtue already beaming from the portals of the twentieth century.

” May we not hope that, as civilization owes its ideas of religious faith to Palestine, of art to Athens, and of law to Rome, so Granada may lay the whole world under tribute for those ideals of human conduct and character which are the glory of the noblest sons of humanity ?”