Not the face of Canadian identity

By Sara Hanson

In anticipation of Canada’s 140th birthday on Jul. 1, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation decided to find out what Canadians would like to change about their nation. Rather than using traditional journalistic techniques–such as going out and interviewing random samples of Canadians–Canada’s public broadcaster decided to experiment with new technology and create a group on Facebook, arguably the Internet’s most popular social networking site.

The group, titled “The Great Canadian Wish List,” currently has 13,914 members, and includes almost 800 different wishes for which members vote. If none of the current wishes seem appealing, members are also given the option to create a new wish for Canada’s future. The group includes a number of optimistically progressive goals, such as making Canada a greener nation and keeping same-sex marriage. However, many of the wishes are also surprisingly conservative.

At one point, 5,122 members had voted for “abolishing abortion in Canada,” making it the number one wish for the group. While keeping Canada pro-choice was the second-most wished for with 4,794 votes, 2,382 wished for the spiritual revival of Canada. Eliminating or reducing tuition fees was the fourth-most popular wish, and restoring the traditional definition of marriage was number five.

While three of the top five wishes appeared to belong to a group sponsored by Republican-Americans, they were not all that surprising, as Canada is currently a conservative nation, at least in political representation. What was shocking was that after a quick glance through the multiple pages of wishing members, it became apparent that the majority are young Canadians, a group typically thought to be composed of more liberal-minded members of Canadian society.

As Canada’s youth will be the leaders of tomorrow, it is hard to believe that any of them would place taking away a women’s right to choice over her own body above making Canada a leader in green-politics. However, what must be kept in mind is that the CBC-sponsored Facebook group cannot provide an accurate representation of what the majority of Canadians–of any age–believe would make Canada a better country.

Although a large number of Canadian youth have Facebook accounts, many may not know about the group, or simply choose to ignore it. Keeping this fact in mind, the CBC should think twice before they choose to reveal the top wishes on Canada Day–a day which is historically reserved for celebrating Canada’s birth as a nation, as well as the impressive achievements of its citizens. When today’s youth looks back twenty years from now, they may not want to remember the day when their nation’s public broadcaster and a Facebook group revealed that there were Canadians who wished to take a step backward and abolish a woman’s right to choose.

While it may be popular, and while Prime Minister Stephen Harper may even have his own profile, an internet site originally created to make it easier for friends to connect should not be used by the CBC to determine the next phase of Canada’s national identity.

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