Some Exceptionalism Please, We’re Canadian

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Mark Kingwell begins “No exceptionalism please, we’re Canadian” by questioning the claim that Canada is extraordinary because it is post-national, has an especially secure banking system, an impeccable public health care system, and, above all, an open-minded, tolerant immigration policy. Kingwell used to believe these things but, today, even though he’s friends with some who do believe them and have published articles explaining why (for we’re “a small country. Maybe that’s the true exceptionalism in play here?”), he doubts any and all stories about how special we are. Indeed, they remind him of the philosopher Leibniz’s theodicy, his “sad, evil idea” that God made this the best of all possible worlds. It was rightly lampooned by Voltaire because it’s obvious that the world can be improved. In any case, Americans are the ones who tend to think that they’re exceptional and it makes them impervious to criticism. Even worse is how self-congratulatory it is. Better to recognize that Canada “is not the best of all possible countries, as recent arrivals and indigenous peoples will certainly attest. We are as rife as anyone else in intolerance, bigotry and ignorance…Sorry, friends.”

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