Nature and National Identity: Contradictions in a Canadian Myth
By Geneviève Richard
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Canadians have always identified the natural world as an important part of their national identity. Through an examination of the way nature is painted in the Group of Seven’s work, how corporations use nature in advertisements and how government institutions commemorate nature on the national currency, the author suggests that there is a disconnect between Canadians’ articulated values and current environmental policy. This paper examines the contradictions and consequences of this gap in Canadian identity through an analysis of the images on Canadian national currency and the Molson Company’s advertisement “Made in Canada”. While the Royal Canadian Mint has recently released a coin celebrating Canada’s Boreal forest, destructive economic activity in the Alberta oil sands is devastating this environment. These types of activities illustrate the contradictions in Canada’s national identity. The consequences of this contradiction as explored in this paper are the commodification of nature, the erasure of Indigenous peoples’ presence in Canada, as well as the Canadian elite increasingly dominating the ownership of the means of production.
National identity, commemoration of nature, national symbols, national currency
Geneviève Richard is an undergraduate student in Political Science and Canadian Studies. She grew up in Montreal but spent her summers amidst the natural beauty of Northern Saskatchewan. It was there that her passion for the outdoors began to blossom. The article submitted to this year’s Capstone Seminar in Canadian Studies reflects her desire to better understand how Canadians understand and treat their natural world. Her academic interests are mainly in natural resource management, Aboriginal rights and Aboriginal health in Canada. She hopes to eventually pursue a degree in nursing after her undergraduate degree in order to provide better access to healthcare in remote communities.