Certainly I would say now that it is a lot less important than I once believed. And far, far less important than following through on the core principles that we* feel define us, but that a very great deal of the time we fail to live up to. In Quebec as in English Canada we like to believe that we are more compassionate towards the rest of the world than are the Americans, that we are more tolerant than Americans are, that we behave more responsibly towards the environment. But America is in fact considerably better in all these areas than Canadians like to believe, and Canada considerably worse. In all these areas our goodwill tends to come to the fore only in response to the visible. When the headlines are filled with images of the devastation in Haiti or in Banda Aceh, we are among the world’s most generous—yet on an ongoing basis we are among the least generous of developed nations in the assistance we give to the world’s poor. When the effects of pollution or global warming are plainly before us, our track record of doing something about such problems is a decent one—but we remain unperturbed if our electricity comes from heavily polluting coal-fired generators that remain out of view. We are rightly outraged if we are shown pictures of ducks suffering the effects of tailings from the tar sands—but we would prefer not to know that millions and millions of non-human animals confined in closed sheds are treated with horrific cruelty in order to provide human animals in Canada with meat and dairy products at rock bottom prices. If we can open our eyes to some of these great issues—and act to bring about change for the better—I for one will care little if we are one nation state or two. Or, indeed, new states in an America led by the likes of Barack Obama.
* I should own to being an unusual and in some ways a reluctant participant in this sort of national "we." I have lived most of my life in Canada, hold a Canadian passport, and very much feel myself to be Canadian. But I do not feel myself in any way to be exclusively Canadian. That is not merely (or mainly) a matter of my having been born in the United States, and being as a result an American as well as a Canadian. Or even, more broadly, of having lived in Britain and Zimbabwe as well as in the United States and in Canada; it's more a matter of having come increasingly to distrust nationalisms of all sorts.