U of G Prof Flexes Intellectual Muscle for 2010 Games

November 17, 2009 - News Release

A University of Guelph historian is featured in a series of lectures by prominent and up-and-coming Canadian intellectuals speaking on topics related to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.

Prof. Matthew Hayday discusses Canada's evolving national identity in "They Like Us, They Really Like Us! Defining Canada Through International Accomplishments" in a podcast that is part of the Intellectual Muscle program developed by the Vancouver Olympic Committee and the University of British Columbia, in collaboration with universities across the country and The Globe and Mail.

The online program includes polls, discussion forums and other interactive features, providing a unique opportunity for Canadians to participate in a series of national dialogues on diverse topics ranging from the Games’ contribution to society and gender stereotypes in sport. The series runs until the end of the Games in March 2010.

Fretting about who we are is akin to a national sport in Canada, “or perhaps it’s better to call it a national psychological disorder,” said Hayday.

His talk, available online Nov. 24, explores Canada’s struggle since the Second World War to define itself as something other than “not American.” Once tied closely to its British roots, Canada’s identity evolved to embrace diversity and pride in its social safety net. But tolerance and universal health care have their limits as building blocks of nationalism, said Hayday.

The podcast explains how governments have increasingly attempted to shift the discussion from navel-gazing to rallying around excellence, linking nationalism to the internationally-recognized accomplishments of Canadian citizens. In particular, the accomplishments of Olympic athletes are playing a key role in this reconfigured national identity, he said.

However, questions of identity are not so easily resolved in Canada, Hayday said. He notes, for example, that after speed skater Gaetan Boucher won three medals in the Sarajevo Games, Canadians and Quebec separatists claimed him as one of their own. More recently, controversy was stirred up by English-only signs at the new Olympic speed-skating oval in Richmond, B.C., despite the status of French as an official language of both Canada and the Olympic movement.

The familiar complaint from alienated Westerners of “Ottawa ramming French down our throats” has an added wrinkle in Richmond, where Cantonese and Mandarin are the most-heard languages after English, said Hayday.

“Both of these images speak to the very complicated politics surrounding how Canadians conceive of their national identity, and how that identity has evolved.”

For more information, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982, or bagunn@uoguelph.ca.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1