Ken Dryden, Liberal MP for York Centre in Toronto and a Stanley Cup-winning goalie with the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s, spoke at Tanna Schulich Hall for McGill’s 2010 Hugh MacLennan Memorial Lecture on Thursday.
During the talk, Dryden spoke about his recently published book Becoming Canada: Our Story, Our Politics, Our Future, which deals with Canadian identity. He argued that Canadians have the wrong idea of themselves, because they feel that the lack of a homogenous national identity is harmful. Dryden argued that Canada’s diversity benefits the country and is ahead of the global curve.
In an interview with The Daily after the talk, Dryden railed against the federal government’s removal of the long-form census this summer.
“I would have never guessed that we would even have a debate about the census. Power comes from money and information. You don’t limit information; information needs to be there for people to use in lots of different ways. When you start dealing more with rhetoric and less with information, then everybody’s in trouble and that’s what happens when you cut back access to sources of information like the census,” said Dryden.
The former NHL star listed climate change, human rights, and poverty as important political issues, but lamented the lack of Canadian political participation. The root of the problem, according to Dryden, is that many people don’t see the link between issues and politics. Dryden talked about the times he spent speaking to university students, describing how they are concerned by global issues but don’t see politics as a way of tackling them. Dryden blamed this lack of faith on the partisanship and polarization of Canadian politics.
“When I’ve been travelling from campus to campus in different provinces, people are saying the same thing and that’s for good reason, because climate change puts futures in jeopardy and it gets at the fundamental question of how no person has the right to limit the life of anyone else in any fashion whether it’s in conflict or as a result of climate change,” said Dryden.
Dryden also described what the Canadian government could be doing to make post-secondary education more accessible, while also solving the problem of underfunding in universities.
“I think that the way in which we fund post-secondary education is that it comes out of four or five different pockets,” he said. “It’s out of parents’ pockets, out of students’ pockets through part-time jobs and summer jobs, from schools’ funding through scholarships and bursaries, and from government programs set up mainly by provincial governments, yet sometimes federal in terms of basic support. Chances are, that’s going to continue; I think the question is how you can make it less of a stretch for each party. …I think it’s everybody’s job to do a little bit better in order to decrease the stress for all parties involved.”