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Maple leaf ragged: what ails Canada?

posted Sep 15, 2012, 5:10 PM by Milorad Borota   [ updated Sep 15, 2012, 5:11 PM ]
Country's increasingly hardline stances on immigration, tar sands, indigenous people and Quebec separatism spark soul-searching
Jonathan Kaiman in Toronto, Friday 14 September 2012 14.00 BST

There's trouble brewing in Canada.

It's difficult to perceive on first glance. In Toronto, the air is clean, crime rates are low and healthcare is universal. Yet an undercurrent of anxiety courses through the country's public discourse and its media; it dominates conversations in coffee shops and university hallways. A volley of recent polarising political developments has led many Canadians to ask whether their country's reputation as a tolerant, environmentally conscious international peacemaker is suddenly in doubt.

A harsh crackdown on illegal immigrants has belied the notion of a country open to incomers. Quebec has elected a separatist provincial government, triggering political violence. The extraction of oil from the vast tar sands of Alberta has proven hugely controversial, as has the marginalisation of the country's First Nations indigenous people. In foreign policy, Canada is increasingly toeing the US line, most recently cutting diplomatic ties with Iran. And its Afghanistan deployment has been tainted by allegations of complicity in the torture of detainees.