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A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  354 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
In this startlingly original vision of Canada, renowned thinker John Ralston Saul 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. An obstacle to our progress, Saul argues, is tha ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Viking Canada/Penguin Group (Toronto) (first published 2008)
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Ben Babcock
My exposure to politics as a child was, like so many things, gradual and haphazard. There were the overt attempts to indoctrinate me into democracy—vague spectres of mock elections in grade six dance in the deep recesses of memory. There more subtle episodes, such as the late-night satirical sketches of Royal Canadian Air Farce, where most of the humour would go over my head for years after I started watching. There were the disruptive moments, like that day in grade seven when I came home for l ...more
William
Dec 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
I was going to give it only 3 stars because the middle part of the book is quite a rant but I find myself thinking about it constantly. Some authors awaken inside of you truths which were always there but buried. This is such a book.
His thesis is that Canada is in fact a nation founded on 3 pillars - French, English and Aboriginal. We have largley denied the last ( and possibly most important ) and in doing so have failed to meet many of our greatest challenges. Our current 'elites' have simila
...more
Leif
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Great book. The concepts presented by John Saul helped me to intellectualize what previously only my heart felt; that Canadian culture is at conflict with itself (the conscious/subconscious) by not understanding the roots of our national identity.

I feel more frustrated then when I began because while I now have the language think about the problem, how does one influence the elites other than by becoming one? John Saul answers this by briefly saying that he feels coops are a way for ordinary Ca
...more
Rob
Apr 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
(5/10) Okay, here's the thing Canadorks: brainless flag-waving is still brainless flag-waving when that flag has a maple leaf on it. Canadians like to think they aren't very patriotic, which is easy to understand living next to the land of star-spangled fireworks, but really the kind of quiet backhanded aw-shucks patriotism of Canadians is just as insidious as the louder varieties. And here comes John Ralston Saul to try and invent a bigger, Native-er national myth.

To hear Saul tell it, there's
...more
Ted Newell
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was puzzled by this book. I admire the author as public intellectual who had years to gain a privileged view of the country at the side of the then-Governor General. I wait to hear more from him. For now, I was not persuaded that the founding generations of the country were much influenced by Metis or First Nations thinking. To be frank, an English loyalist Protestant triumphalism dominated, and I say that counting myself as a hopefully chastened later member of the clan. The dominant (thankfu ...more
Darcy
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canada
John Ralston Saul is not an author you quickly read and I must confess, the first time I tried to read this book I gave up after about 100 pages. BUT I knew there was something there I needed to understand and learn. So I opened it again and approached it as if I were in conversation with Saul. Suddenly the pages came to life and I was gobbling up the book. Saul's respect for the First Nations of Canada is profound and inspiring. I love his articulation of Canadian society and how it is rooted i ...more
A.J.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I think this book should be required reading for all new Canadians. Not least because John Ralston Saul says such nice things about new immigrants. And because it makes such a lot of sense. It gets very political in the middle, but the historical perspective on how Canada was forged out of the Aboriginal approach to welcoming the 'other' is absolutely fascinating and I was nodding my head all the way through the early chapters. This man knows his history and has a clear vision of how it can be i ...more
Me
Nov 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
If I were to go on and write on every line Saul provides to the great Canadian public I feel rather dumbed daily on how this man appeals. His arguments are all riddled. So much for an intellect, ever Aboriginal person is his brother, why it's quite fair to disagree. It's appalling for "the" representative of Canada on the most donned intellectual is only 70% right most of the time, or all the time. Disappointed, we are all so easily sold on our fantasies. Not cynical or rhetorical or madly negat ...more
Todd
Jan 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I had to debate on clicking non-fiction or fiction. I'm a fan of John Ralston Saul, this book is very, very interesting and well worth reading. Actually I would think that every Canadian should read it. But, I wasn't convinced that Metis culture has really influenced Canadian culture. If you would like to have delightful hours of thinking ahead of you, then this is the book to pick up. If you want to have your mind blown and perceptions of the world change, it's more likely that you'll need to r ...more
Paul
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: free thinking Canadians
If you've long had a sneaking suspicion that you were fed a pack of pos-colonial lies in history class, read this book. If you lament the inability of this countries elites to rise above a servile colonial mindset, read this book. If you have hope that we can, as a nation, remember that we are a wonderfully diverse group of fair-minded, courageous, innovative people, read this book.
Emily
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
I LOVE the idea of the three founding pillars of Canada-French, English, and Aboriginal. And even if what he has written is total bull, it's a poetic identity for Canada to have, and I think we, as a country, should have a closer relationship with the French, i.e. Quebec, and the thousands of Natives in our 'fair' country.
I also admire the amount of historic research he has done, with finding a wad of records that contain 'peace, welfare, and good government'.
That being said, I am a Canadian se
...more
Sasha Gronsdahl
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
I like JRS's premise--that Canada is a metis civilization, founded on Aboriginal values as much as on European (English/French) ones, and that is why Canada is different from other developed countries in so many ways--but I think it misses the mark on many levels. First, he fails to properly deal with the oppression of Indigenous peoples and the question of their consent. How would First Nations people today feel about this argument that Canada is rooted in Indigenous values? Perhaps it could be ...more
Vanessa
Mar 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Canadians, including souverainistes
Recommended to Vanessa by: Librarie Paragraphe, Montreal
This was excellent. It's written in a somewhat ranty, conversational style - I had the impression of reading a transcript of a lecture - that gives the book a chaotic feel. This is both a strength and a weakness. Main theses: Canadian civilization is based on Aboriginal and Métis concepts of social organization and justice; the Canadian elite are cowardly, weak, wallowing in a colonialist fantasy; Canadians need to reconsider the North and its citizens on its own terms. He also covers economics, ...more
Lucia Iordache
Jun 01, 2013 rated it liked it
If you’re planning to visit Canada and want to learn more about Canadian history you might find this book interesting. This is not a history book but a social and political philosophy book about the making of Canada. It’s not an easy read and if you don’t like philosophy or abstract concepts you might not like it. As an immigrant, I’ve always struggled to find a sense of identity in my adoptive country. I found it interesting to discover that this struggle is perhaps just as present among born C ...more
Catherine
The beginning of the book goes through Canadian history with an interesting sort of "Aboriginal" lens. Unfortunately, Saul then goes on an extended rant about how "our elites" (a term he never really pins down) have failed us, which feels vague and insufficiently supported. The final section offers some recommendations for how we might think about ourselves as a country and how we might solve some of our more pressing issues. On the whole, the book provides some interesting ideas, but I would ha ...more
Lindsey Pattinson
May 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that panders to Nationalist self identity which made me question my own comfort level with this. It connects shared settler and indigenous history in Canada from past to present making sometimes completely new connections and giving proper credit for a current self identity in present Canada formed over time. Although it was sometimes hard to follow, it was a book that changed my perspective and was refreshing. Since reading it, I've read the newer version The Comeback, also all o ...more
Tasha Cooper
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
True to form John Ralston Saul gets you thinking about things from a different point of view. For me, this was a challenging read as books of this nature are a deviation from my norm.

There is a bittersweetness to it all - a telling of what Canada could be, maybe even should be - and how the powers that be have altered course on us. Perhaps some day we can forge a path towards this vision of Canada - a farcry from Harperland. Sadly though, not in my lifetime.
Lupeng Jin
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really appreciate that the author provided me with a precious chance to learn something about Canada, a country in which I had had no interest. The bilingual culture made this country totally different from any others on the planet. It is seemingly unnecessary to pay attention to it as same as to its great neighbor - the United States of America, but I believe no one dare to look down upon Canada.
Theiantrout
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
John Ralston Saul once again has proved that there is a more nuanced and balanced way of defining Canada that sets us apart from most other western states. Our schoolroom history often sweeps over the contributions of the First Nations peoples, which are brought to light with elegant prose by one of Canada's leading thinkers.
Cow
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canada
Absolutely fascinating, if you're at all interested in the current issues in Canadian politics and economics and their origins--including the ones you might not have thought of. Ralston Saul expresses ideas I've thought of, but he is articulate enough to be able to put words and images to them--and thus make the argument, and help me make it.
Cheryl
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
“In the circle of life, the circumference nurtures the centre.” P 62. This describes the web of relationships of First Nations society of the northwest coast, in BC. Many nations, each considered themselves different, yet the relationships of stories, myths, economic roles linked them into a larger more complex culture.
Christy
Dec 27, 2009 rated it liked it
What I read of this book was amazing. But perhaps too much so for my comprehension. I easily absorbed 2/3 and then was just overwhelmed.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in culture, history, Canada, or currently living in Canada. I will finish the book once my brain recovers from the first 2/3s.
Nick Hodge
Dec 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I learned that Canada really is different from other countries, and John Ralston Saul has managed to articulate the reason why.
I also learned a little more Canadian history than what I picked up in high school.
Shaun Liu
Sep 16, 2015 rated it liked it
A provocative argument that challenges one to rethink the national narrative of Canada, recast the Canadian civilization in light of the profound contributions of the Aboriginal peoples, and a wake-up call to the lack of leadership due to a colonial inferiority complex
Jane Campbell
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian, non-fiction
Stimulating read, Saul makes you think. Especially provocative discussion of health care and education over the past few years, Saul certainly appeals to me in his analysis of political trends although I'm still pondering the Metis Nation concept. How good to read something that stimulates.
H Wesselius
Saul makes a compelling case for his vision of Canada. A metis nation that has a different founding than other "European" nations. His bashing of the Canadian elite is well deserved but in critizing them for not pursuing useful solutions to problems, he needs to remember he is part of the elite.
Carol Sorensen
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: canadiana
This book taught me things I didn't know, and put them together in a unique and valuable way.
Matt
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not without bold question marks in the margins and glaring concerns for greater clarity, still an engaging and exciting thesis. Best book I've read in awhile.
Karlo
Nov 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, history
I'm not sure that I agree with Saul's explanation of why Canada is a Metis nation, but damn I like it as a creation myth for Canadian culture. I really enjoyed this book.
Bandana Sharma
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
John Ralston Saul is a gem in a sea of Canadians who have either forgotten how to research and think critically or forgotten how to be bold and imaginative. In doing both, JRS attempts to clear out centuries of cobwebs from the misguided narrative that's slowly been eroding the sense of identity of 'Canada'. Canadians will take these insights lightly at their own risk. If his work can't be properly appreciated now, I only hope future generations will be able to give it the respect it deserves in ...more
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John Ralston Saul is a Canadian author, essayist, and President of International PEN. As an essayist, Saul is particularly known for his commentaries on the nature of individualism, citizenship and the public good; the failures of manager-, or more precisely technocrat-, led societies; the confusion between leadership and managerialism; military strategy, in particular irregular warfare; the role ...more
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