POSSIBLE CANADAS: Building Deeper Relationships

We are imagiNation150, a group of citizens based in Calgary. Our sesquicentennial gift to Canada is in response to former Governor General David Johnston’s challenge that Canada be a smart and caring nation. Building on the 2015 “Possible Canadas” book of interviews of 56 notable Canadians, while adding data and insights from allies across the country, we engaged a cross section of people in southern Alberta on what being smart could mean, and how we might encourage each other to be more caring.

We discovered a deep well of goodwill among Canadians, especially regarding hope for healthy communities centered on strong relationships. We were uplifted by what is possible, and cautioned by what may not be possible, for our country. Knowing this difference is key to ensuring goodwill grows and does not become thwarted, sour and divisive. Our challenge to all who read this is to ensure the legacy of 2017 be a multiplication of the connections and conversations between and among all of us who share this land.

Our communities—be they local, provincial or national in scale—are complex, for there is no single formula, no silver bullet for living well together as a plurality of peoples and perspectives. We may find some differences offensive or threatening, but strong community does not require sharing every idea or value, or always reaching perfect consensus. The unending task of becoming free, smart, and caring persons—the thrilling challenge of Canada—is seeking ways of co-existing amidst our differences, without homogenizing them.

We learned that one such way is to raise anew the importance of our civic identity, for whatever our other identities, we hold our citizenship in common. The abiding bond of our shared citizenship best allows us to think and act together in the face of complex challenges, notwithstanding all that may otherwise distinguish, or even separate us.

It is because of our citizenship that we have the responsibility to raise our expectations of one another and of ourselves. We all share accountability for strengthening our bonds of trust and restoring faith in our institutions. Through our civic identity and relationship as citizens, we can rise to the challenge of becoming a smart and caring people, and face the complexity of community—but we need to see ourselves and speak of ourselves as citizens, so that we can engage one another in respect and affection.

For details on the complex and complicated challenges we heard, as well as for energizing and inspiring examples of citizens building community and relationships together, here is our report.