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Nation Building: It’s the small acts that bind us

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What is nation building? CCSD’s President & CEO, Peggy Taillon, shares some thoughts

Canada has a rich heritage of leading in progressive ideas, translated into thoughtful policies, and moving them to action. This action takes a unique shape in communities across our diverse country.

Collective action in local communities, the large and small acts, define us, shape us and bring us closer together. It binds us as Canadians, respecting and celebrating what makes us uniquely diverse – and, of course, builds pride, ultimately building national unity and social cohesion.

Social cohesion is not just coexisting, or the absence of conflict, or a society that embraces the sameness of all its citizens.

Social cohesion is the ability to move forward in the same direction with shared purpose, while embracing our differences.

Unity through nation building is necessary for us to exercise our full strength in the complex global village. It gives us an essential level of agreement, our foundation.

These aspirations have led to much of the infrastructure we lean on today as a country: our national railway, the TransCanada Highway, Medicare, Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, our information highway, to name a few. But nation building cannot simply be nostalgic.

Canada must have continuous nation building by furthering a genuine consensus across regions, cultures and languages. We need much more than passive tolerance of one another to advance on our common problems.

The highest level of policy making comes from small acts of community building and informal actions with neighbours at the curb side.

Nation building is reflected in citizens who are engaged, in our public spaces to share, a hockey arena or two, and data to understand and measure who we are – so we can move forward based on evidence.

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Nation building is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, that is, it takes time. It is a social process. And that is because a nation is reflected in its people.

Nation building does not require its people to be of the same ethnicity, culture or language, as once thought when “nation-state” was originally defined.

So what does all of this mean today? Particularly in the context of complex global challenges in virtually every domain: economic, social, security and more.

It means that at the core of the Canadian idea is an enduring definition of success as shared progress for all of its citizens, measured in terms of income, opportunity, well-being, and enjoyment of social rights and freedoms. Success has been coupled with a special responsibility to ensure those who are vulnerable are not left behind.

We know this. We’ve done it before in good times and in bad. Indeed, some of our best ideas came from some of the worst times in our history.

I have faith that engaged and informed Canadians, given real choice and powered by meaningful evidence, would do what they have done since Confederation: We would choose to build together – as a Nation of many Nations, unified in the big idea that is Canada.

The Canadian Council on Social Development Launched a Nation Building Campaign on PlayMC2 (beta) in September 2014 as part of the mobile app’s early trials. The non-political, non-partisan, #nationbuilding campaign empowered Canadians to create and share “microactions” (small actions) such as “pick up your neighbour’s mail,” and “make a donation to a local food bank,” in order to show how collective action can be a powerful force while contributing to a better Canada. By December 2014, thousands of #nationbuilding, #dignity and #peace microactions had been completed on the app by young people around the world.


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