Conflicting visions: Don Messer, Liberal nationalism and the Canadian unity debate

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In this paper, the popularity of commercial old-time fiddler Don Messer isexplored within the context of the emerging liberal nationalism of the 1960sand the Canadian broadcasting system’s ‘nationalist project’ or mandate ofrepresenting, promoting and even performing Canadian identity on theairwaves. The author maintains that in the rush to establish new Canadiansymbols as a response to political concerns at home and the threat ofAmericanization, the abrupt disposal of British symbols and the removal ofestablished media icons from the airwaves, as in the sudden cancellation in1969 of Don Messer’s popular television programme, left a legacy of conflictwhich has ultimately resulted in the suppression of traditional Canadianculture in favour of elite culture. The apparent elitism of the CBC has likelydriven segments of the Canadian public to seek their viewing options andcultural icons elsewhere, most likely on the American television networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-57
JournalInternational Journal of Canadian Studies
Issue numberFall
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2002


  • Canada
  • identity
  • broadcasting
  • cultural policy
  • Don Messer


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