Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us

By: J. Patrick Boyer

Photo credit to Silvestri Matteo.

The celebrated “gift to see ourselves as others see us” requires gaining an objective distance to appraise qualities hard to recognize from too close up. It can be sobering, and instructive. In 2017, Canadians are celebrating a century and a-half of Confederation under 1867’s Constitution by focusing overwhelmingly on ourselves, a self-referencing paradigm, a mirror not a window.

That’s why it’s doubly good to have a dose of realism about how others see us.

In my book, Foreign Voices in the House, those “others” offering such a vantage point are the five dozen presidents, prime ministers, monarchs, and transnational leaders who’ve addressed the Canadian House of Commons, from their perspective on this country, over the past hundred years.

These exceptionally diverse leaders, speaking at intervals ever since Rene Viviani of France and Arthur Balfour of Britain began the tradition in 1917, offer a kaleidoscopic view on a country evolving from colonial status to independent nationhood, in a world constantly remaking itself in geopolitical, economic, and technological ways.

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