Note: I don't pretend to be an expert on any aspect of this topic, but I do claim to be a proud Canadian. And yes, there are those that disagree with some of the following points, but I still heartily believe that most Canadians strive to achieve these values, if not all in the same way.
- Peace, order and good government - while an often ridiculed part of Canada's British North America act (BNA), this statement really does sum up what it is to want to be Canadian. We have a willingness to accept the controls of our government for the common good. A prime example of this is our different provincial regulators (Liquor Control Board of Ontario, or LCBO for one), or even our Parliamentary form of government. Unfortunately, this core aspect of our Canadian-ness is being eroded due to Americanism and privatization.
- Equality for all - This is a relatively recent addition legally, although I have a feeling it has always been present in the mindset of Canadians. Made official law by Pierre Trudeau's Liberal government in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, this aspect of Canadian consciousness again demonstrates Canada's progressiveness. Not limiting employment, justice or education (among many others aspects of a good life) for any groups, no matter what their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation ensures at least a legal standpoint for a society based on equality and integrity.
- Belief in our judicial system - This gets a little more tricky than the above two, as it is not legislated anywhere for obvious reasons, but it still holds true. While Canadians often complain about aspects such as parole, the Young Offenders Act and other legislation, we as a people do have confidence in our justice system to do right and to punish/rehabilitate our society's offenders. We also carry a deeper, more mature sense of justice than some of our fellow nations, rejecting the idea of corporal justice and allowing for the due process of law in any circumstance.
- Confidence in our police force - Somewhat tarnished by recent events in Quebec City and an APEC summit, it is still with pride that we exclaim that our Mounties "always get their man." We as Canadians have a strong respect and admiration for the RCMP, provincial and municipal police forces, as well as their governmental counterparts.
- Willingness to accept newcomers - Canada is a nation founded by and maintained further by immigrants. In fact, the "immigrant experience" is outlined in the official document "Canada 2005 : Global Challenges and Opportunities" as being a positive and beneficial experience for all those involved. We welcome the oppressed, and allow for equal opportunity for success within the Canadian community.
- Equality of access to education and health care - One of Canada's cornerstone identifiers. Our health care system, although expensive, is something that Canadians cherish and sometimes brag about outside of our borders. The fact remains that Canada strives to make sure that every citizen has access to these two necessities of life. Threatened in late years by certain Provincal governments, equal access to such fundamentals as education (to secondary school) and vital health care will remain to be a pillar of the Canadian value system, no matter how they are administered.
- A forgiving nature - Adrienne Clarkson, Canada's Governor-General, said on the day of her installment at the post that our "four centuries of give and take, compromise and acceptance, wrongdoing and redress" make us a stronger nation. We seek negotiation not retaliation, and we are a community that prides itself on consensus problem solving combined with respect for groups and individuals.
- Willingness to support institutions which assert these collective values - For example, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and the NFB (National Film Board of Canada). Unfortunately, these too are being eroded by both American influence and lack of funding, however the majority of Canadians still support these institutions and hopefully they will remain a part of our Canadian community.
Conclusion: As Canadians, we assert our position in the world through quiet diplomacy and peaceful compromise. Domestically, we battle with the "sleeping elephant" to the south of us, while defending the slippery concept of our Canadian identity. These values above are a loose definition of that identity, and while not unique to Canada, they do give an outline of what we as a nation believe in and strive for in our everyday lives.