What is a Canadian?: Forty-three Thought-provoking Responses

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Irvin Studin
M&S, 2006 - History - 273 pages
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Each of these essays begins with the words “A Canadian is . . .”. Each one is very different, producing a fascinating book for all thinking Canadians.

Irvin Studin is an idealistic young Canadian who wanted to do something extraordinary for his country. So he decided to approach leading Canadians — he calls them “sages” — to tell us what they believe defines us. The people who responded eagerly, to produce an essay of 1,500 to 2,000 words, are, in his words, “all distinguished Canadian thinkers and achievers from all walks of life — politics, the civil service, academia, literature, journalism, business, the arts — from both official language groups, and from all regions of the country, as well as from the Canadian diaspora.”

The strength of this book lies in the contributors, listed in the sidebar. The variety ranges from the funny — “A Canadian is . . . someone who crosses the road to get to the middle” (Allan Fotheringham) through the hostile — “. . . the citizen of a country badly in need of growing up” (William Watson) through the surprising — “. . . adaptable. To illustrate, consider the depth and breadth of the Canadian woman’s wardrobe” (Jennifer Welsh) or celebratory — “. . . a wonderful thing to be” (Bob Rae).

A Canadian is . . . certain to find this book fascinating.

Allan Fotheringham, Thomas Homer-Dixon, Roch Carrier, Jake MacDonald, George Elliott Clarke, Margaret MacMillan, Thomas Franck, Rosemarie Kuptana, Gérald A. Beaudoin, Peter W. Hogg, George Bowering, Christian Dufour, Paul Heinbecker, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, John C. Crosbie, Audrey McLaughlin, Roy MacGregor, Charlotte Gray, Hugh Segal, Janet McNaughton, Sujit Choudhry, Aritha van Herk, L. Yves Fortier, Catherine Ford, Mark Kingwell, Silver Donald Cameron, Guy Laforest, Maria Tippett, E. Kent Stetson, Louis Balthazar, Joy Kogawa, Wade MacLaughlan, Douglas Glover, Lorna Marsden, Saeed Rahnema, Denis Stairs, Valerie Haig-Brown, Guy Saint-Pierre, William Watson, Doreen Barrie, Jennifer Welsh, Bob Rae

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User Review  - LynnB - LibraryThing

This collection of 43 essays examine the age-old question of "Canadian identity". Did I learn anything new? Other than a few interesting quotes and factoids, no. But it was thought-provoking nonetheless to have a range of responses to the question "What is a Canadian" to ponder. Read full review

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About the author (2006)

Irvin Studinis the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants. He is a Rhodes scholar from Toronto's York University and has graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and Oxford. He worked for a number of years for the Privy Council Office in Ottawa. He has persuaded leading thinkers to contribute essays to raise money for a scholarship through this book.

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