Saturday, October 11, 2008

Proud and Independent

The Icelandic people are among the most proud, rugged people on this planet. They have existed as a people cut off from most contact with the rest of the world for over 1,000 years. In those thousand years they have organised themselves, managed themselves, policed themselves, and been ever ready to help themselves. These are their strengths as a people.

As someone growing up in England I remember well the cod wars, and how offended the English were that the Icelanders would dare to defend the interests of their own fish, to the detriment of all of Europe by extending their zone of control over their fishery to include all of their fishery. Today, Iceland through its policies of protecting its natural resources has the only thriving fishery in all of Europe. If Canada had Icelands vision, and Icelands courage, we might still have cod on the Canadian grand banks. Iceland has more to teach us about fish than we Iceland.

As someone who has visited Iceland, I know from personal experience that Icelanders produce the best lamb on this planet. It is absurd to be importing lamb from New Zealand, when Iceland is so much closer.

Iceland has good infrastructure, a well educated, friendly, peaceful, population, and a people as used to the far north as any Canadian. They have the same concerns about their environment, the same love of their country, and live in a region of the world which could easily be mistaken for Canada.

Iceland is one of the most progressive nations on this planet in exploiting geo-thermal energy, and this is viewed as one of the most under utilised sources of energy in the US. Canada wants to sell itself as a green nation, committed to use of renewable energy sources. Iceland could provide us with the expertise needed to make us leaders in the field of geothermal energy.

What Iceland does not have is the political clout which comes with being part of a large nation. What Iceland does not have is the ability to be resilient to disasters when disaster hits. What Iceland doesn't have is the financial and political security which would come with being a significant part of a larger whole. And Iceland is left largely outside all of the existing efforts to enlarge economic unions. All of these issues would be addressed by a union with Canada.

For Iceland to enter into union with Canada, it would require agreement by both sides. Canadians are not that familiar with Iceland. Most Canadians do not head north for their holidays, and Iceland is if one examines the globe reached by flying north over Canada. Until recently the economic prosperity of Iceland also meant that Iceland was a very expensive place for Canadians to visit. There would be a need to educate Canadians about Iceland, its culture, its heritage and its people. But at a practical level, Canada would have no problem absorbing the population of Iceland into the Canadian community, and providing that population with whatever assistance was needed for the population of Iceland to survive the current and any future economic downturns. If Iceland wanted to join Canada, it is clear that its participation in the Canadian community would be very much to Canada's long term benefit.

I am not Icelandic so it is harder for me to see the issues as an Icelander would.
Most certainly travel between Iceland and Canada would involve flying, but that is not so very different from what is involved in travelling between Ottawa and Vancouver. Indeed the physical separation between Iceland and Canada would I think serve Iceland well, since it would give them an emphasised sense of being separate from Canada even while being part of Canada. Iceland does not speak English as a first language, though most are fluent in English, but this is not an issue. Quebec does not for the most part consider English its native language either. Just as Quebec actively protects its own culture and identity so too could Iceland. Iceland has only a small population, but there are already examples of provinces in Canada with smaller populations. While Icelanders might not emotionally feel trading being a nation for a province was a step up, they would be trading being 330,000 for having a significant voice, as an equal, in the affairs of 35,000,000 people.

Icelanders might feel that their roots are in Europe, that they are European, and that to become North American would be a bridge to far. But they should remember that it was the bravest of their kin, who went on to settle Greenland, and Newfoundland. Most of their kin did not choose to return to the Europe they had left behind. Instead they went on further. Today, Canada is still the preferred destination for those who emigrate from Iceland.

If Iceland must find friends, I sincerely hope that Canada has the sense to offer Iceland the friendship that Canada alone can offer Iceland. And that is union. There is strength through diversity, and Iceland would make Canada far more diverse, while Canada would make Iceland far more secure.

Bizarre as it might appear at first blush, there is merit for both Canada and Iceland in talk of union.


Charlie said...

Also, they have Sigur Ros. Sigur Ros plays in Iceland way more than anywhere else. If Iceland became part of Canada, maybe they'd play here often too.

Anonymous said...

I'll join you :D