Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997
Christ Church Cathedral414 Sparks St.

12 Ways to Honesty in Canada

with John Ralston Saul

12 Ways to Honesty in Canada

with John Ralston Saul
Christ Church Cathedral
414 Sparks St.
John Ralston Saul - Photo by Don Denton

For years, John Ralston Saul has been challenging our common notions of Canada and urging us to examine our history and myths.

Four of his books provide an essential overview of our unique and remarkable country and provide the framework for understanding our rich history and the road ahead.


In Reflections of a Siamese Twin, he turns his eye to an examination of Canada itself. Caught up in crises—political, economic, and social—Canada continues to flounder, unable to solve or even really identify its problems. Instead, we assert absolute differences between ourselves: we are English or we are French; Natives or Europeans; early immigrants or newly arrived; from the east or from the west. Or we bow to ideologies and deny all differences in the name of nationalism, unity, or equality. In a startling exercise in reorientation, John Ralston Saul excavates our Canadian myths - real, false and denied - and reconciles them with the reality of today's politics, culture and economics. 


In A Fair Country, he argues that Canada is a Métis nation, heavily influenced and shaped by Aboriginal ideas: Egalitarianism, a proper balance between individual and group, and a penchant for negotiation over violence are all Aboriginal values that Canada absorbed. An obstacle to our progress, he argues, is that Canada has an increasingly ineffective elite, a colonial non-intellectual business elite that doesn’t believe in Canada.


The Comeback calls us to embrace and support the comeback of Aboriginal peoples. This, he says, is the great issue of our time—the most important missing piece in the building of Canada. The events that began late in 2012 with the Idle No More movement were not just a rough patch in Aboriginal relations with the rest of Canada. What is happening between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals is not about guilt or sympathy or failure or romanticization of the past. It is about citizens’ rights. It is about rebuilding relationships that were central to the creation of Canada. These relationships are just as important to its continued existence.

In his Extraordinary Canadians biography of Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin , he argues that modern Canada did not begin in 1867; rather its foundation was laid years earlier by two visionary men, opposites in temperament and driven by intense experiences of love and tragedy, together they developed principles and programs that would help unite the country.


Books available for purchase at every event: Proceeds support our free children’s literacy programs.





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