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Regionalism and it’s Effect on a Unified Canadian Identity Essay

The concept of regionalism has been used to show the social, economic, and political differences that exist between the regions of Canada since the days of confederation. Historically, Canada has developed in different manners depending on the location, leaving a region much different from another. One of the major reasons for this can be seen through the geography of this country. The natural land forms which are present in Western Canada, such as the prairies, are much different from say the coastal proximity, for example, of Atlantic Canada. The climate in relation to the different geographical characteristics of Canada attributes to the different life styles in these regions, ultimately changing their identities. This causes difference in economies of the regions, in turn affecting the political agenda of each region. The concept of regionalism has caused many to attack other regions based on the claim that Central Canada manipulates the rest of Canada economically and politically. This sparks a notion of regional identity as opposed to a Canadian Identity. I believe that the idea of regionalism forces us to focus on the differences we have from other Canadians rather than looking towards our common traits.

We must not forgot the culture that is present in each region as it ultimately affects their position on matters economical and political. Regionalism is basically a result of a geographic area transformed into a social area known as a region. The regions of Canada ; Atlantic Canada, Central Canada, The West, and The North make up the differences of Canadian identity through the idea of regionalism. The regions differ based on culture, economics, and politics not to mention the geographical differences. The Eastern part of Canada known as Atlantic Canada, “is a geographic diversity drawn together by economic and cultural history.” Newfoundland/ Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia make up the Atlantic region. Historically this region was the first area explored and settled by European settlers. They were drawn by the abundance, at the time, of natural resources such as fishing as well as the fur trade, to name a few. Nowadays, their economy incorporates fishing, mining, forestry, tourism, service industries along with some manufacturing dealing with the processing stage of certain natural resources. The culture of this region is very unique. With a large tie to European settlers the culture of these people has rubbed off on the area.

Atlantic Canada, as a region, is being forced to change politically and economically based on the greater success of the economies of the other regions in Canada, predominantly Ontario. Conrad believes that there is some way to keep the cultures and values of Atlantic Canada while at the same time restructuring the political and economic practices of this region.”Subject purely to market forces, historically formed regions are constantly at risk of losing their identity, becoming subject to the logic of global capital.” This quote of Friedmann used in is very important for one of my points about how many regions of Canada are continuously immersed with the threat of losing their culture and ultimately identities. It also causes me to ask the question, will this cause a future increased unity for Canada as a whole or will it continue to separate the unity between Canada’s regions. The region of Central Canada is made up of two provinces, Quebec and Ontario.Quebec’s main industries include such things as forestry, mining (gold, iron ore, gold copper), as well as hydroelectricity.

They are also responsible for such thins as producing pulp and paper, tourism, and farming. Ontario’s “major industries include service, manufacturing:( auto and auto parts, other transportation equipment, steel machinery, metal, plastic, chemical products), agriculture (fruit, dairy, beef, poultry, vegetable and grain crops), forestry, electricity (nuclear and hydro), and mining (nickel, gold, silver, platinum, uranium, zinc, copper).” Even provinces from the same region have differences in identity which is clearly the case between Ontario and Quebec. Most specifically the difference would have to be the cultural difference of language. Since the beginning of this country Quebec has fought for the preservation of the French language and culture and thus the protection of such makes for a different perception of Canadian identity. Every other region in Canada feels that the government policies unequally allow Central Canada’s economy, primarily Ontario’s, to dominate. As the saying goes everyone in Canada hates Ontario and everyone in Ontario hates Toronto.

The different class levels make other regions apathetic about the progress most specifically, financial progress in Central Canada. When analyzing the West region of Canada two groups emerge one being the Prairies of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan and the other being the mountainous area of British Columbia. The economy of the prairies includes manufacturing such as food machinery, transportation equipment, metal products and clothing, food and chemical products, as well as the countries largest agricultural industry including livestock and grains. Most recently the province of Alberta’s economy has seen the most growth on a percentage basis in Canada. Historically people of this region are known as being farmers. Although there are many non-farmers in this area, agriculture can be seen in the culture of these people. As well political issues raised by this region’s politicians clearly illustrate their focus on agriculture through their call for added grants and policies to aid the farming community of the prairies. With British Columbia’s geographical characteristics of rich natural resources comes an industry based on such. Roughly half of the goods made in BC are products of forestry.

The other industries present in British Columbia are fishing, agriculture( fruit farming), hydro-electricity, and tourism. British Columbia’s culture is becoming quite multi cultural as many people of Asian decent are immigrating to this province. The North region of Canada is made up of Nunavut, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. The culture in this region is predominately that of aboriginals. The people of the North are more focused on growth while sustaining the environment rather than economic growth through industrialization. “The linkages generated by this search for industrial staples benefits industrialized parts of the country but have only disruptive effects on the traditional economy of the native people.” A large amount of Aboriginals, as well as some other inhabitants of the North, still earn their income and feed their families through hunting. Mining (lead, zinc, and gold), gas, oil and art attribute to the other industries. The exploitation of natural resources in the North is a problem for this region, as it unfairly distributes the gains of such resources to other regions of Canada most specifically Central Canada. Regionalism can be viewed as an extremely negative thing in terms of a countries unity. Regionalism in a sense causes provinces to team up against one another either in verbal assaults through politicians or through economic partnerships. Cameron states that there are three basic themes which lead to regional criticism.

Those being, “(1) that the region has been exploited; (2) that there has been neglect on the part of national institutions, particularly governmental ones, which could have been expected to contribute to the strength and growth of the economic and cultural institutions of the region; and (3) that the national organizations have not only failed but have wittingly or unwittingly weakened that process.” I believe that the themes are extremely true and evident in Canadian regionalism. They point out to reasons why the Canadian identity is so diverse amongst its citizens. As I mentioned earlier in this paper regionalism, forces us to focus on our regions similarities and our differences form the rest of the country rather than focusing on what makes us truly Canadian. I believe that regionalism makes it extremely difficult to reach a unified Canadian identity. I believe that in order to manifest a unified Canadian identity we must abandon the concept and ultimately economic policies of regionalism. Is this possible? We cannot totally abandon regionalism as it does present some positive aspects of the development of provinces, even though it may be unequal. I feel as though it is impossible for two people from different regions of Canada to be completely equal in their Canadian identity.

The incorporation of their regional identities ultimately changes to them what it means to be Canadian. Therefor I believe that in our current position we cannot come up with a unified Canadian identity. Blake’s article incorporates the idea that we must look away from the notion of region and look more directly into the relationship between certain areas of Canada. He uses the example of the Saskatchewan and Newfoundland/ Labrador and the similarity of their problems one in the agriculture aspect the other fisheries. Both groups are going through extremely rough economic times and they collectively feel the government of Canada needs to recognize this instead of focusing on the strong economy in Ontario, and recently Alberta. We must change our uneducated views and stereotypes of regions in order to truly understand each other, as Canadians.

With the goal of strengthening Canada as a whole, which will ultimately bring Canadians together in a more unified community, at least compared to today’s state. Savoie states that if economic forces are causing us to go away from regional economic integration then we will need to really on changes through political institutions in order to once again promote this idea of regional economic integration. ┬áHe goes on to use a quote of Trudeau saying, that economic growth will ultimately lead to the separation of a unified Canada. In order to strengthen Canadian unity we must promote a shared amount of economic success dispersed through the regions of Canada, this can be made possible through government policies. This in turn, will weaken the arguments, and therefor existence, of regional criticism and disparity. Half way through the paper the spacing gets messed up, I tried to fix the problem but it would not let me. Sorry for the inconvenience.


1)Donald Savoie, “All Things Canadian Are Now Regional,” Journal of Canadian Studies 35.1 (Summer 2000): 203-217. 2)Gerald Friesen, “The Evolving Meanings of Region in Canada,” The Canadian Historical Review 82.3 (September 2001): 530-546 3)Margaret Conrad, “The Politics of Place: Regionalism and Community in Atlantic Canada,” The Constitutional Future of the Prairies and Atlantic Canada (1992): 18-36 4)Thomas Dunk, “Racism, Regionalism, and Common Sense in Northwestern Ontario,” Social Relations in Resource Hinterlands (1991): 204-221 5)Dr. Brian Payne. “Chapter One: Regionalism and Borderlands,” Fishing the Borderlands: Government Policy and Fisherman of the North Atlantic 6)Understanding the West: Unique Characteristics of the Four Western Provinces in Social and Political Outlook 7)Dr. Raymond Blake, “Looking Beyond the Regions,” Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy 8) George Rawlyk. Regionalism in Canada. Prentice Hall. Scarborough, 1979. 9) David Cameron. Regionalism and Supernationalism. Institute for Research on Public Policy, Montreal, 1981. 10) Perspectives on Regions and Regionalism in Canada. University of Ottawa Press, 1982. 11)http://www.mta.ca/faculty/arts/canadian_studies/english/about/study_guide/regional/identity_region.html 12) http://www.thecanadapage.org/Regions.htm

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