September 7, 2020 - 4:21pm

While a ‘CANZUK’ trade deal between the Anglophone nations might be an ‘absurd fantasy’, the UK should entertain a different type of cultural exchange with Canada.

According to a new report by the Henry Jackson Society, Canada is not only the leading D-10 country (the G7 plus Australia, India, and South Korea) for ‘national identity and belonging’, but it also ranks highly for other measures of ‘societal resilience’, such as ‘altruism’ and ‘national happiness/public optimism’. According to a study by the Varkey Foundation, a vast majority of Canada’s youth — 87% — believe that their country is a good place to live. By contrast, 63% feel the same in the US.

Canada’s core strength as a liberal democratic society lies in the reality that this societal resilience is supported by impressive levels of public trust in democratic governance. Indeed, it is one of the strongest-performing D-10 countries for this particular component of national resilience. It is also the highest-ranked country for quality of law and order, which incorporates public trust in the police and the judiciary.

So, how has Canada established as itself as a country with a relatively altruistic, happy, optimistic population, which is diverse, patriotic, and trusting of the democratic system and law and order? The roots of this can be found in the Canadian model of nationalism — the advocation of a robust civic nationalism in response to Canada’s growing cultural diversity. An inclusive patriotism based on the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms — a bill of rights entrenched in the national constitution. Encompassing a range of political, legal, linguistic, and mobility rights, the Charter is designed to unify all Canadians — irrespective of ethnic, racial, and religious background.

In cultivating a pan-Canadian civic identity, Canada has become a shining example of a post-WWII diverse democracy which is in strong shape in terms of institutional and societal resilience.

Britain can learn a great deal from the Canadian success story. It ranks below Canada in terms of broader national resilience — including public health and terrorism-related resilience and it is one of the weakest-performing D-10 countries when it comes to trust in democratic governance. Moreover, it ranks lower than Canada when it comes to specific components of resilience such as altruism, national identity and belonging, and public optimism/national happiness.

The laissez-faire multicultural approach in the UK has not reaped benefits. And in prizing difference over cohesion, this failed project of multiculturalism has played its part in undermining the UK’s national resilience.

In a post-Brexit world, the UK’s political and policymaking leadership has an opportunity to undergo a period of cultural renewal — and what better way could global Britain look beyond its own borders by adopting an inclusive, Canadian-style patriotism?

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a researcher specialising in British ethnic minority socio-political attitudes, with a particular focus on the effects of social integration and intergroup relations.