A FAIR COUNTRY: TELLING TRUTHS ABOUT CANADA

Penguin Books Published in Canada (English), Canada (French)

 

  • 1st on Maclean’s bestseller list
  • 2nd on Toronto Star’s bestseller list
  • One of the top non-fiction bestsellers of 2008 (The Globe and Mail)

Summary

In this startlingly original vision of Canada, thinker John Ralston Saul unveils 3 founding myths. Saul argues that the famous “peace, order, and good government” that supposedly defines Canada is a distortion of the country’s true nature. Every single document before the BNA Act, he points out, used the phrase “peace, welfare, and good government,” demonstrating that the well-being of its citizenry was paramount. He also argues that Canada is a Métis nation, heavily influenced and shaped by aboriginal ideas: egalitarianism, a proper balance between individual and group, and a penchant for negotiation over violence are all aboriginal values that Canada absorbed. Another obstacle to progress, Saul argues, is that Canada has an increasingly ineffective elite, a colonial non-intellectual business elite that doesn’t believe in Canada. It is critical that we recognize these aspects of the country in order to rethink its future.


Corrections

Review Highlights

From the Globe and Mail’s Personal Picks of 2008:

Michael Adams

“John Ralston Saul’s A Fair Country is an intellectually engaging effort to reframe our view of the relationship between aboriginal peoples and Canadians who have arrived (or been born to migrants) over the past four centuries. Saul’s reading of history suggests that a more respectful, even egalitarian relationship existed between aboriginal peoples and European newcomers during the first couple of centuries before the period of de facto cultural genocide from which we are now only haltingly emerging.

 

Being a pollster, I naturally surveyed the opinions of my First Nations, Métis and Inuit colleagues, and found unanimity among them that this book intrigued them, and did not, as I had feared, give unintentional offence with its provocative declaration that “We are a Métis civilization.”

 

Aboriginal peoples are one of Canada’s most rapidly growing demographic groups. Now at 1.2 million, they are close to the numbers estimated to have been here when Jacques Cartier first set foot on this land. An even larger number of us (1.8 million) claim aboriginal ancestry and both these numbers have been growing in recent censuses more rapidly than new births, suggesting that we are in fact witnessing a renaissance of aboriginal identity in this country – an emerging spirit that Saul is sensing. His book’s quickly achieving bestseller status also suggests he is tapping into an inchoate sense among non-aboriginal Canadians that we should be rethinking the stereotypes we learned in the history books of our youth and that are reinforced every few months by the relentless bad-news stories in the media. Maybe – maybe – Saul has begun the dialogue that will create a powerful new national narrative (the Greeks called it mythos) to reframe this relationship from one of ignorance and racism to that of equality and respect.”

Joseph Boyden

“John Ralston Saul’s A Fair Country is an intellectually engaging effort to reframe our view of the relationship between aboriginal peoples and Canadians who have arrived (or been born to migrants) over the past four centuries. Saul’s reading of history suggests that a more respectful, even egalitarian relationship existed between aboriginal peoples and European newcomers during the first couple of centuries before the period of de facto cultural genocide from which we are now only haltingly emerging. Being a pollster, I naturally surveyed the opinions of my First Nations, Métis and Inuit colleagues, and found unanimity among them that this book intrigued them, and did not, as I had feared, give unintentional offence with its provocative declaration that “We are a Métis civilization.” Aboriginal peoples are one of Canada’s most rapidly growing demographic groups. Now at 1.2 million, they are close to the numbers estimated to have been here when Jacques Cartier first set foot on this land. An even larger number of us (1.8 million) claim aboriginal ancestry and both these numbers have been growing in recent censuses more rapidly than new births, suggesting that we are in fact witnessing a renaissance of aboriginal identity in this country – an emerging spirit that Saul is sensing. His book’s quickly achieving bestseller status also suggests he is tapping into an inchoate sense among non-aboriginal Canadians that we should be rethinking the stereotypes we learned in the history books of our youth and that are reinforced every few months by the relentless bad-news stories in the media. Maybe – maybe – Saul has begun the dialogue that will create a powerful new national narrative (the Greeks called it mythos) to reframe this relationship from one of ignorance and racism to that of equality and respect.”

Selected Quotes

Noah Richler – Globe and Mail

“A brilliant and timely argument about Canada’s complex nature and our country’s best future course. What a relief it is to read something so observant about Canada…Our politicians would do well to read this book.”

Lesley Hughes – Winnipeg Free Press

“He suggests a new and believable understanding of how Canada has come to be what it is. A Fair Country has the potential to change the way Canadians see themselves forever. It offers a romantic and heroic vision, and it’s a stirring and unpretentious read.”

Jon Midgley – Calgary Herald

“A consequence of Saul’s vision is that Western Canada assumes greater influence in the Canadian story.”

Haroon Siddiqui – Toronto Star

“Any Canadian reading the book, or learning about its content, will think of Canada differently.”

Aparna Sanyal – Montreal Gazette

“A Fair Country is that rare work of political thought that, by virtue of its daring, is both thrilling and sobering. One reads it with the even rarer sense that it had to be written.”

Reviews

MJ Stone – Hour.ca
“Anyone curious about Canadian identity will find A Fair Country a fascinating text. Saul goes to the heart of the matter and demonstrates how aboriginal inspiration has defined us a unique people whose roots are both European and native.”Hour.ca

Alice Klein – NOW
“In his new book: A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada, John Ralston Saul does his damnedest to make Canada more interesting. His goal is nothing short of a new foundational mythology of who we are as a country. His 300-page part history, part just plain old rant certainly succeeds in building a new big picture..”NOW

Jim Creskey – Embassy
“The good news is that Canada’s unique capacity for success can be found like a buried treasure in this country’s history. The bad news is that not only has it been buried, but it has been intentionally covered up.
Now, all of a sudden, Canadian history is starting to sound like an archival whodunit, and if this is exciting news for its own sake (which it is), it’s even more important for the present and future.
We have John Ralston Saul to thank for this discovery. But it is a discovery in the way that the first European arrivals discovered the interior of Canada. In truth they didn’t discover, but were shown the way by the aboriginals who lived here.
Ralston Saul, in the course of his research, was also shown the way and now his sharp, inviting prose passes on what he’s learned in his latest book, A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada.”Embassy

Doug Horner – The Gauntlet
“A Fair Country describes how Canada developed as a unique place and the distinct mythology that originates from this time. Saul argued the contemporary Canadian elite are incompetent because of their inability to solve problems or even effectively discuss them. He attributed this failure to a colonial mentality that still perceives Canada as a derivative of Europe or the United States.”The Gauntlet

Aparna Sanyal – Montreal Gazette
“In A Fair Country, John Ralston Saul, one of Canada’s foremost public intel- lectuals, does not merely challenge conventional notions of what it means to be a Canadian.
He fires an endless number of thought-salvoes, burns down ivory towers and creates a whole new dimension of discourse.”Montreal Gazette

Lesley Hughes – Winnipeg Free Press
“Another deep-thinking tome by another intellectual about the elusive Canadian identity? Say it isn’t so. Be comforted. This one is different. It’s gutsy and exciting. It will start heated and overdue arguments.”Winnipeg Free Press

Noah Richler – Globe and Mail
“A plain but telling litmus test of the impact of a new book is whether you find yourself acting by it. Already, having read A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada, John Ralston Saul’s argument for Canada as an aboriginal-minded society, I find myself talking more easily about the colonial encumbrance and the influence of first nations on our national consciousness. A fair Country may be wishful thinking; it plays conjurer’s tricks with history and, quite deliberately, creates new founding myths. But it is also a brilliant and timely argument about Canada’s complex nature and our country’s best future course.”Globe and Mail

Paul Gessell – Ottawa Citizen
“Now that John Ralston Saul has been away from Rideau Hall for three years and safely back to Toronto, he has decided to tell us what he really thinks of Ottawa.
Some won’t like what he has to say.”Ottawa Citizen

Jon Midgley – Calgary Herald
“Whether or not one agrees with all of Saul’s claims his main argument makes a lot of sense. Cultural amnesia could explain this country’s bizarre reluctance to address aboriginal concerns or to fashion an identity that seems credible.”Calgary Herald

Articles

Dan Gardener – Ottawa Citizen
“Click here to access the content”Ottawa Citizen

Andrew Cohen – Ottawa Citizen
“Click here to access the content”Ottawa Citizen

Editorial – Ottawa Citizen
“Click here to access the content”Ottawa Citizen

Haroon Siddiqui – The Toronto Star
“Click here to access the content”Toronto Star and – Toronto Star

Lawrence Martin – Metro
“Click here to access the content”Metro

Lawrence Martin – Globe and Mail
“Click here to access the content”Globe and Mail

Pascal Zamprelli – The McGill Reporter
“Click here to access the content”The McGill Reporter

Linda Diebel – Toronto Star
“Click here to access the content”Toronto Star

Interviews

Interview with Cormac Rea – Ottawa XPress
“Click here to access the interview”Ottawa XPress

Interview with Joseph Planta – The Commentary
“Click here to access the interview”The Commentary

Interview with Kate Fillion – Maclean’s
“Click here to access the interview”Maclean’s

Interview with Vivian Moreau – Victoria News
“Click here to access the interview”Victoria News