Recently, the ambassador of Canada was asked to say a few words about Canada and Canadian identity. Rather than talk about our unique natural landscapes, endearing cultural norms or even how we pronounce words funny, the ambassador chose to talk about Tim Hortons.
For the ambassador, Canadian identity was more about a relatively small coffee chain than it was about our historical accomplishments. While Tim Hortons does make an awesome cup of Joe, and I do appreciate their low prices, it’s not a very global company.
Canadians love to identify themselves as being a diverse nation with an interest in all things global. We celebrate Toronto’s diversity and the word “diversity” comes up in Canadian culture as much as the word “freedom” comes up in American.
The company that embodies this spirit isn’t Tim Hortons, but rather RIM. RIM is a Canadian company building a product that is truly global. The BlackBerry is helping economies be more efficient, as well as helping us stay in touch, thus strengthening the bonds of society. Canadian identity should be linked to something that empowers people, rather than make them fat.
Andrew Cohen, a professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University, wrote a good article on this subject that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen (no link). He also backs RIM as Canada’s best foreign policy tool.